The Lansing, Michigan quartet The Dangling Participles has been performing originals and covers throughout mid-Michigan since 2015. Founded by three Michigan State University English language instructors, this band’s signature sound blends together rich vocal harmonies with blues, Americana and folk genres. Consisting of Austin Kaufmann on guitars, harmonica and mandolin, Tamiko Rothhorn on cornet and ukulele, Tim Patterson on bass and Dan Moreno on percussion, Present is their current follow up to 2015’s EP release Devotion.
The opening “Quarter Till June” is a snappy swinging tune, bouncy and hip. It’s a little jazzy, a little vaudeville with a smattering of schmaltz. “Double Trouble” is a rambling, blues-folk tinged rocker featuring Tamiko on vocals and Kaufmann chiming in on the alternating vocals – a good old-fashioned love song. It also features a guest appearance by Bruce Howard on harmonica. “Driving Slow, Living Slower” is a beautiful slow tune, just right for the open road with some catchy lyrics, too – “Turn up the volume / Roll down the windows / ‘Cause summer’s finally here / Put your shades on / And put the top down / It’s the best time of the year.”
“Renting You Space” was written and sung mostly by Rothhorn. It also features her on the ukulele centered on a reggae styled beat. It’s a song about still getting caught up in a relationship that you’d rather forget about. “Isabel” has a nice sounding muted cornet and Rothhorn on lead vocals. The beat is a little samba and tango, or at least that’s what it reminded me of, and the overall sound is quiet and mysterious. Zander Beal makes a first of two appearances on saxophone. “Make Things Great Again” starts off slow and low, and lyrically the words are introspective and take a tender look at humanity and the choices we make from day to day. The vocal harmonies on this one couldn’t get any better – this one was a favorite for sure.
“Blues (I’d Be Lying)” is another song shared back and forth by Tamiko and Kaufmann. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, yes this number has a slow, swinging blues flavor to it, complete with harmonica, muted cornet and funny, lovable lyrics. As one who loves art history, of course I adored “Matisse” – a folksy ode to finding your muse – “though a masterpiece I’ll never be.” Tamiko’s cornet was gorgeous on this one.
“Breaking News Blues” was co-written by Kaufmann and Rothhorn and you know how the feel or sound of a newer song reminds you of an older one? – well, that one song from the late ‘60s, “Stormy” comes to mind – perhaps because “Blues” sings of ‘rainy days’ and ‘clouds.’ Anyway, it’s a good soulful groove about finding comfort in your partner’s loving arms. “Your Old Guitar” is a deeply touching song about loss and remembrance. It’s a stripped down approach with Kaufmann on acoustic and Rothhorn on backing vocal. If you’re into reminiscence and melancholy, this is the song for you – grab a tissue.
“Slow Boogie” brings all the band members together in the end – Patterson’s smooth bass plucking, Moreno’s warm, tight beats and the vocal harmonies of Kaufmann and Rothhorn (and her cornet) and also, another sax appearance by Zander Beal. This is a feel good song about getting on the dance floor with the one you love – you can’t go wrong with that. If you’re into a variety of sounds that hop from one genre to the next, The Dangling Participles’ Present may be just what you’re looking for.
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