Here I am reading about the band Medicine Fish and I read a line that stated, “Medicine Fish is a main artery that leads directly to the heart of rock and roll.” At first I thought this was a rather presumptuous thing to say but as I listened to their release Charlemagne Blue it made a lot more sense. The music on Charlemagne Blue doesn’t remind me of any particular band but it definitely has a sound that not only is founded in rock but also the genres that preceded it and subgenres that formed because of it.
Everything from the chord changes to the guitar solos to the drumming patterns feels intensely familiar but extremely welcome. The band consisting of John Velsor (guitar/vocals), Julian Maultsby (bass/vocals) and Ryan Griffin (drums) successfully blend genres such as Americana, folk and country into formidable songs that were sometimes memorable. The type of rock these young men play is clean, often Neil Young inspired type songs that have more in common with the ‘60s rock than generations ensuing. The production isn’t shabby. It didn’t sound overproduced but rather like a couple of people playing real instruments in a room.
The first track “Ain't That The Story” starts off with a classic chord progression of E to A To G to B. It’s an instantly catchy and fun way to start things off. It may not be the most technically impressive song in the world but it is a nugget of pop goodness. “In The Shade” is where we see the Americana influences start to bleed through. I enjoyed the instrumentation in general but the organ was especially effective. Velsor give an inspired vocal performance here and sounds best with some heartfelt nostalgia behind his voice. The inflections run somewhere better John Fogerty and to a lesser extent Neil Young.
“Barn Rag” is a personal highlight that contains some effective mandolin. They mash up the song with bluegrass and rock. It’s certainly a festive song. Another highlight was the acoustic based “Reflections.” There was some tight guitar playing reminding me of the Eagles at points. The open space and melancholy sounded good on the band.
Not every song works on this album and at fourteen songs long there were moments that began to drag. Overall, these minor issues are indeed minor. Charlemagne Blue is a solid album with a number of notable songs that are worth your time to check out.
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