To me sometimes the most interesting thing about any art form are the influences behind them; what inspired the artist to create the art they did. For some it is loneliness, for others the death of someone close and others still seem to draw their inspiration from political neglect and world atrocities. Then of course there is the album inspired by travel, Paul Simons’ Graceland comes famously to mind.
The travel premise is what the Massachusetts duo Jake Slater and Henry Condon, who perform under the name Humble Digs, cite as the catalyst for change on their third record Humble Digs Vol. 3. The band’s first two records or in this case volumes, were heavily influenced by jam bands, which is a slippery slope of a genre with people on both sides ready to either lay waste or vehemently defend its existence.
A road trip down south through Texas and Louisiana et al gave Slater and Condon time to reflect on the kind of music they were making. When they came back they had gained a new appreciation for the twang of country music, which makes appearances on several tracks on the still unclassifiable Humble Digs Vol. 3.
The country comes through most heavily near the record’s beginning, both in the suffused vocals and finger picked guitars on the opener “Lazy Nights.” This twang mixed with a bit of backwards guitar parts provides a nice varied effect on “Paint Me Gold.” The mildly raucous “Had a Laugh” comes out of nowhere to begin to lead the album into more jam-band centric territory with its blazes of horns and long fits and continues on this course (sounding like a new age Greatful Dead jamming with the Allman Brothers) on the nearly six-minute long “Ponyboy” and perhaps only mildly so on “50,000 MPH.”
At the end of the day Humble Digs Vol. 3 is exactly what one would expect from an album with volume in the title. It sounds more like a compilation album than anything else. Diversity is a good thing to have as an artist, though when one jumps genres from song to song it becomes clear there is a lack of focus, a problem that leaks its way into the songs and makes them not as polished as they could be. This is precisely where Slater and Condon sometimes go wrong on the record. Many musicians have many different sides to them and they often choose to let off their other creative steam via a side project or too. If anything it helps to make for a larger fan base as well as lending focus to an often-blurred art form.
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