Alive Records [Release date 04.10.19]
As a genre, Americana is a very broad church of influences and flavors from beards, banjo’s and BBQ to fiddles, flannel shirts and flared pants but possibly it’s most engaging allure is that it is pretty much always unpretentious and honest.
And that’s what you have in Let It Burn, GospelbeacH’s third album; a collection of very genuine and straightforward, California-sun-kissed, chilled barefoot and hairy, easy-on-the-ear tunes. Once more aided and abetted by Chris Robinson’s go-to guitar guy, Neal Casal, Let It Burn smolders pleasingly throughout without ever really catching fire……consistent rather than combustible.
Unquestionably influenced by the likes of Tom Petty, Mellencamp, Fastball, and the vocal power-house bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s, frontman Brent Rademaker has been kicking around this scene for a while now in bands like Beachwood Sparks and Further.
GospelbeacH continues to mine the furrow of trippy, mid-tempo, quasi-country-pop balladry and there is some real quality song-writing and construction to appreciate. No question of the authenticity of the first four or five tracks – well-crafted, easy-access melodies. “Bad Habits” is a lovely, cool opener with a meandering, moody and extended coda from Casal and “Dark Angel” a fairly obvious lead-off single, splattered as it is with Petty/Heartbreaker DNA.
“I’m So High” perpetuates the album’s flow, packing a little more 12-bar pop-punch. “Get It Back” is probably the album’s “suck-it-and-see” track, being fairly typical of where GospelbeacH is at with Let It Burn……optimistically reflective, a continual smoldering without an actual firework moment – a real beauty this track. That said, the more you hear tracks like “Fighter” and the excellent jack-the-lad, rag-time vibe of “Unswung”, the more this feels like a mood album, one you can easily just put on and hit play, dip into and out of and smile every time you do.
The album is certainly feel-good and does gets a bit saccharine-loaded at times, particularly on what would have been side two back in the day….the ‘80s Fleetwood Mac-sounding title track and the “Good Kid” cut whilst Rick Springfield is all over “Nothing Ever Changes”.
Final track “Hoarder” is a personal favorite with that magical slide guitar, honky piano combination which recalls The Band at their best (and possibly the most rock and roll lyric on the album “I’ve been around, ain’t no beginner. Let’s go for drinks and skip the dinner”).
GospelbeacH clearly have their musical roots embedded in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and it’s as if they’re writing “new old songs”. Bit of a slow burn but repeated spins reveal a broader sonic landscape and a record of real merit. What we used to call a “proper album by a proper band”. ****
Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw
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