Desert Shade is a hard-working rock band from Annapolis, Maryland that plays throughout the Baltimore area. I call their genre party rock, which sprang fully-formed in the ’70s before getting quashed by disco. You can’t hear this music without imagining a crowd of reeking revelers searching for cold beer. This band fully embodies their influences without a speck of modern daylight to break the mood. If I were looking for a contemporary band to compare, the closest would be Nebula. The DesertShade guys are not as hardcore, but display the same reverence for a lost era.
This five-song EP was recorded and mixed by the band in an Annapolis basement, pretty much as they play onstage. It’s exactly the kind of album you’d buy at the end of a live set to relive what you’ve just heard.
Bobby Sacker and Nick Macleay both sing and play guitar, Anthony D. does bass and harmonica, and Nate Merrill plays drums. Lead and backing vocals are solid for the rock genre, and all the players are above average in chops and technique.
“Ran Away” opens the EP with a Doobie Brothers “China Grove” riff and John Entwistle bumblebee bass. Band legend states that the original lead singer hadn’t arrived the day of a show, so the guys formed DesertShade on the spot and created this ode to bad love by some weird preordained alchemy.
“All For Nothing” shifts gears into a mellow acoustic guitar and harmonica ballad. The boys were inspired by the late John Prine, but I also hear echoes of Neil Young and America. A tasty wah wah solo adds interest to this track.
“Crazy Talk” was written by drummer Nate Merrill, as you can tell by the percussive heavy mix (though it gets pushed too far back as the song continues). There’s lots of slide guitar and cool dog barks during the Zeppelin-esque middle section. Though serviceable, this song was given a bit more groove space than it might deserve.
“Masterplan” is one of the best tracks here. An awesome lead guitar passage leads into full-band vocals singing: “I don’t think you understand / This is all part of a master plan.” This tune is a crowd favorite and I can see why: you can’t help but sing along, and the song has a classic, dramatic build to its sweet & blue guitar solo.
“Skyward” is the band’s first single and my personal favorite. Turning down from 11, the guitars play clean Eagles-like riffs leading into a John Fogarty-style vocal about living and dying and doing it all over again, “…back to where we began.”
As a document capturing the live sound of this band, this EP delivers nicely. Whether this short collection stands on its own is harder to say, but fans of classic rock should not be disappointed. The band is doing a recording session 11/7 where you can pick up some vinyl. Link below.
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