(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CD Review, The Poudre River Band, The Bellvue Dome

First of all, I have to get the disclaimer out of the way. This is a local band here in Ft. Collins that my friend Jack plays bass in. He's a good guy and I think that local musicians should support one another. I've gone out to hear them and when he mentioned that they had finished their new CD, I wanted to get one. We ended up working out a trade for some homebrew. Hopefully, he'll get the chance to read my review, but we haven't even talked about it. I don't think I'm too biased here.

Fundamentally, this band is carrying out the vision of founder Tom Barbour. A vision anchored in the old west of Colorado, with a sound that divides itself between classic folk country, Gram Parsons era Byrds, and the 70's country rock influenced by Parsons. Tom's written all of the songs here and he's the primary lead vocalist and guitar player. Overall, the album delivers on this vision, with storytelling songs, thick harmony vocals, tight rhythms, and a little touch of twang.

I think that if you know the places and people that he alludes to in his songs, it adds a bit of depth. Certainly, if you live here, you recognize the place names: the Bellvue Dome, the Overland Trail, Virgina Dale. The album is strongest on these story songs, like Virginia Dale and the title cut. On the other hand, there are a couple of songs that just don't quite fit that feel, like I Admit It and Adelene, which I would have saved for a different album. I Admit It is more of a pop country song (although the female vocal is strong) and Adelene feels more "Americana" and wouldn't be out of place on a Roger Clyne CD.

As I mentioned above, almost all of the songs have very strong harmony arrangements. The reverb and chorus are applied a little thickly for my taste, sounding a little overproduced at times, but that doesn't mask the work the band has done in building the parts. Tom's voice occasionally channels a very young Johnny Cash, but that might just be the style, the EQ, and echo.

The rhythm section is tight, with a fairly steady hand. Guitars are the most interesting for me: bits of Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, and Roger McGuinn adding fills, even a song (A Dandy) that brings Jerry Garcia in his country guise to mind. There's also some nice fiddle work, a little accordian, and keyboards.

All in all a solid country rock album, whose story telling makes it stand out.

Set up some bourbon and branch and think a little on the heat of summer.

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