There are perfect crosses between rock and country, and then there are vainly scrambling attempts that fall short and make you wonder if maybe going back to bubblegum mightn't be the best idea. Well, don't worry about the latter here, 'cause JD and da boyz know their roots too well to ever mistake what's wanted or what's real. Malone especially is a cat who understands just how adventurous country musics could once get way back when—catch the wild singing in Still Love You, and you'll hear the distinct echo of grinning ranch hands out to raise a little good-natured hell while looking to spark up the skirts at the bar…or back home—and has looked to hallmarks like John Fogerty (covering Fortunate Son here) and Tom Petty (I Should Have Known It) for inspiration.
Don't for a moment, however, think the writer-singer-guitarist is looking to be either of those guys. He's more than full of his own ideas, and Avalon stands firmly on its virtues, well away from idolatry or imitation. The guitar-driven sound—4 of 'em! (bass included)—is as lush as an approaching thunderstorm when such is needed or spare as a dry balmy afternoon on other occasions, sometimes sweet and mellow, each track wrought as atmosphere and mood dictate. The country element is solid as hell but well removed from the tawdry and clichéd lyrical and sonic banalities of so much of the genre. Avalon, in fact, is almost dauntingly authentic, and refugees of the Gram Parsons School might even want to consider founding a new direction from it.
Tom Hampton and Avery Coffee are going to captivate every listener with their smoothly integrated interplay and sometimes heart-wrenching passages, as in Emerald Lake, where Malone sets the stage in a yipping yodelly lament of unbreakable love, halfway requited, halfway un-, a strange conflation but damned if he and the band don't make it work. Normally, the disc would end with my favorite cut, a 7+ minute killer, the haunting Emmit Meets a Demon, but this release is crammed full of Expert goodness and runs almost to the limit of CD capacity, a full 79 minutes, including two sets of bonus materials that really are bonuses, not BS dry-hump sell-jobs.
Then there's the companion DVD of seven in-studio songs recorded in rehearsal before a single note was laid down for the CD, all with the guys cuttin' up and cussin' 'n discussin', but I'll let you discover that for yourself…'ceptin' to say this: it's a good thing they didn't include Emmit, as I'd'a had a heart attack, blissed out and headin' for heaven, leaving this poor review behind, unwritten. Nobody woulda wanted that.
[As if all that weren't enough, if you buy this CD, you get to also choose a free download from the ItsAboutMusic.com's 300 selection catalog…and if ya end up not liking the disc, they'll take it back! Sweet Marie!]
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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