No genre is perhaps more critically maligned, despite its rampant popularity as jam bands. There's just something in the intersection of rock n’ roll, jazz, extended improvisation and snippets of other styles - like indie and electronica - that people just love to hate.
This is despite the fact that many Phish- and Deadheads also fawn over early indie/college rock weirdoes like Pavement and Ween, not to mention classics like Steely Dan, Miles Davis and Motown. Perhaps the prejudice comes from the worn-out influence of punk rock with its inherent mistrust of people who know how to play their instruments, write songs or deliver their material in a bright, shiny pop bow.
These days, however, perhaps the most punk thing you can do is to have your songs heard by the many, in whatever way you can. It's no longer enough to be weird and abrasive for the sake of being "experimental" or "edgy." We've heard it all. We're no longer easily shocked or stunned.
Humble Digs Volume 2 by Middleboro, MA's Jake Slater, compensates for the bloated prog crimes of many jam-indebted bands, particularly on record, by swathing the instruments in a mellow cocoon of reverb, painting the guitars and vocals in an impressionistic blur that is a welcome respite from the often harsh, dry digital production style that many prog-style bands tend to favor.
Humble Digs Volume 2 is built around the gentle, swaying strum of Slater's jazz guitar and gentle vocals. The bare skeleton is then cloaked in a flesh of vintage keyboards and saxophone bringing the old school soul jazz and retro electronica vibes, making Humble Digs Volume 2 somewhere between Booker T & The MGs and "Boogie On Reggae Woman." Instrumental virtuosity is on display here in short bursts of flying guitar solos. Slater keeps it minimal and restrained, however, never succumbing to self-indulgence.
Me, personally, I'm an unashamed Phish and Deadhead, so it's a pleasure to hear jazz-influenced improvisatory rock delivered in an appealing way. Slater possesses the unique combination of knowing what he's trying to say, knowing how to say it eloquently and knowing what his audience wants to hear. This equilibrium will serve Slater well, and any jam band attempting to make a record would do well to take some production notes.
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