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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recording review - The Gromet, Barren (2012)

Colorado country rockers make retro tones their own

It's been two years since I last heard the Gromet when they opened for Tumbledown. The Golden, Colorado band has spent that time honing their sound as they play the Front Range and touring around the West. Last month, I caught their CD release show here in Ft. Collins and picked up a copy of their new album, Barren. I enjoyed their set, but I finally found the time to settle in and give the album a listen. While the band still plays a country rock/Americana mix, they've traded out Wilco influences for the folk rock feel of the Eagles and The Band.

The album name serves as fair warning that the Gromet has also matured their sound from their more direct, feel-good roots. While Barren is hardly moping, bringing some darker themes allows for a wider range of emotional nuances. The title track has a simple, folky sparseness with a clear acoustic guitar and sincere vocal. With a wistful sense of loss, "Barren" is reminiscent of "Where Do They Go" by the Beat Farmers.
Barren love shows its age
I'm wonderin' what you feel now
Barren love shows its age
The more you give, the more it takes
The only ornamentation is a poignant bit of melody worked in with the guitar chords. The track gains even more weight from the contrast with the previous track, "Whiskey and Pills", a soulful country rocker that would feel at home in the Marshall Tucker back catalog. The slightly hoarse lead vocals stand up well to the warmly distorted guitar tone. The lazy melody is familiar, wrapped in an aura of early '70s rock. The solo kicks in, accompanied by retro falsetto harmonies that shift the vibe from "Can't You See" to a twangy Rolling Stones sound. The repetition of the title line sets up a perfect sing-along tag to take the tune home. This has the hallmarks of a great live song and the band captures that energy here.

The Gromet proves adept at mining the Western rock space to tip their hats to a host of influences, from the rootsy John Hiatt Americana of "Skip Your Stone" to the folky tone of The Band on "Stalemate" and the Eagles flavored harmony vocals on "Empty Space". Despite the inspiring list of sonic references, the band manage to stake their own claim with catchy lyrics, boot tapping rhythms, and a clear, honest band persona.

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