Thursday, February 17, 2011

Relax Campfire OK, you're not …strange.


Strange Like We Are

Ana-Them (02/01/2011)

Relax Campfire OK, you're not …strange. But you are different - which is a good thing. This Seattle band is among a select few, including fellow hometown favorites Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, who are re-defining (i.e. modernizing) roots rock and Americana in the 21st Century. Ensembles that simply appropriate the classic recordings of the genre's icons (how many Neil Young, Lucinda Williams and The Band impersonators can one generation handle!) seem downright irrelevant in the company of Campfire OK. Yes, the multiple vocal harmonies, banjos, and various marching band instruments are pushed to the forefront, yet the lads and lady (who wisely identify themselves by their respective surnames - vocalist/bassist Van Der Speck, percussionist Dagworth, banjo/horn player Hannigan, pianist/vocalist Goodweather, and keyboard player Exworthy) render their compositions with extreme precision and a rather refreshing dose of complexity (Key changes! Odd time signatures!) akin to the spine-tingling performances you'd expect from veteran studio players or a Broadway orchestra. Campfire's melodies are decidedly melancholy and the songs given to mostly mid-tempo arrangements - but there's no lag time or filler. The band is most thrilling when it opts to rock hard as in "Magic Tricks" and the title track, by way of brisk, staccato rhythms, guitar feedback, ripping horn parts, and dramatic dynamics aplenty. "Bleach Blonde" a scary ballad worth of the late great Warren Zevon - is abetted with spooky vocal harmonies, slippery bass lines and off-beat bursts of percussion. One day, young bands will want to sound like Campfire OK, until then, this is the real "Americana" deal.

--Tom Semioli

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