LAMBCHOP OH (ohio) (Merge)
I would imagine Kurt Wagner, lead singer and central mythic figure of American band Lambchop, gives record executives nightmares. The conversation might go something like this:
“Right, Jack, that new Lambchop record. We’ll stick an alt-country sticker on the front cover, alright?”
“Alternative country? Gee, Bob, I don’t know. That opening track Ohio sounds like a bit of jazz and folk to me.”
“Alright, fine, jazz and folk. We’ll market it as Kris Kristofferson in a bar lounge.”
“Hmm, yeah alright, but that track A Hold Of You sounds really soulful to me. You think we shall sell it as soul instead?”
“Yeah, soul is fine. So we’ll put a soul music sticker at the front like Marvin Gaye or something and–”
“Hang on, Bob, there’s a fair bit of funk on this track Popeye as well, you think we should mention that?”
“Okay, funk, funk is good, we’ll put an ad out in the papers and–”
“Gosh, this track “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” really does sound an awful lot like alternative country…”
“Jack, I need a drink.”
By now it should be pretty obvious that OH(Ohio), the latest offering by Nashville band Lambchop, is a genre-bending record that deftly blends together jazz, blues, folk and country with a heavy undercurrent of blue-eyed soul What Jack and Bob up there fail to tell you is how darn enjoyable the album is.
To be fair to poor Bob(who’s currently ingesting a copious amount of alcohol into his system), you’re not likely to find a Top 10 radio hit on the record. There are no wildly infectious hooks or headboppin’ catchy tracks. Instead, we have sweetly subtle melodies and light, unobtrusive harmonies like the ones on Slipped, Dissolved and Loosed, and full, slow burnin’ band soul love reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke on tracks like the aforementioned A Hold Of You.
The seven-member strong band sound intuitive and comfortable enough to sparkle with an attractive looseness on tracks such as Sharing A Guitar With Martin Luther King Jr. National Talk Like A Pirate Day is another such track, brimming with raw trademark country energy reminiscent of Whiskeytown and humour that is all Kurt Warner. Warner himself is quietly brilliant throughout the record, his trademark staccato baritone anchoring the listener with an easy assurance at times, and phrasing a quiet lyrical thunderstorm on tracks like the simple yet powerful Please Rise.
In all, this is a gorgeously lush album that will go down well with listeners who like their music diverse. Warner is unmistakably the mastermind behind the record, but at the same time there is a positive air of collaboration that can only come from the easy charisma of a band that has learnt to play in the scales of the soul. The album is varied in its influences and stylings, but it never delves into schizophrenic territory, always retaining a strong sonic and lyrical identity. The energy never really rises above a quick brisk here, but its alright. This is music for the comfort of your living room, sounds of joy, love, grief and wonder that will evocate beautiful images in the theater of your home and your mind.
(Samuel C Wee)