Just before Christmas 2005, I happened into a show by Bouldercrest Singing Group, another local Atlanta band which came highly recommended. Although their sound is not normally my type of music, I was impressed enough to pick up their debut album, Louise. I immediately realized that two things: first, the band recorded very well, which is perhaps not surprising considering that the musicians as well as the producer are long time fixtures of the Atlanta music scene; second and more importantly, I found that the music on Louise formed the near perfect backdrop to the hours of driving through a rolling, Southern landscape as I drove all over rural East Georgia during that holiday season.
Bouldercrest Singing Group is led by singer/guitarist Paul Daniels. Vocally, he has a soothing baritone without edges or affectation. Backing him are bassist Thom Heckel (of Brody Stove and, at one time, Myssouri), drummer Eric Young (see: American
Dream and Bully), and finally Chris Hoke (3D5SPD, Envie, and The
Sudden Rays). With that musical pedigree, Daniels has assembled one of the best line-ups I've seen in a long time, and it shows in their recording. The music has a slight country/blues undertone as well as a distinctive Athens-esque jangle, over which Daniels' drawl echoes easily.
For instance, title track Louise begins with Daniels singing over a backing of acoustic sounds, including a prominent mandolin bit. Young's drumming is quite prominent and its cymbal-heavy tone gives the music an extra swing that keeps it from meandering. Behind it all, the guitars echo nicely without overwhelming the vocal lines. Itís a really pretty song.
Although most of the songs that precede it on the album are minimalist in tone, Corndog Blues feels more bluesy instead. The guitars take on an almost minor keyed progression and feel distorted, and the drumming becomes heavier, while Daniels' vocals stay very distinctive and in front. Similarly, towards the end of the album, Mending Fence adds echo to the instrumentation, providing contrast to the clear, unwavering vocals. After a verse or two in this style, the band picks up the pace, courtesy of some quick drum and bass work, then it falls back to the slower tone of the earlier music. This change is quite fetching, and gives Mending Fence an extra punch.
The track after Mending Fence, called Self-Help 101, returns to a minimal style with brushed drums and simple, light chords. More than any other track, this one shows off the backing vocals of Heckel and Young. Combined with slide guitar and a gentle waltz beat, the song oozes its way into my memory, so much that I find myself humming the tune for days on end. Self-Help 101 leads immediately into Stay Away, a rock track that maintains the easy catchiness of the previous tracks. It also has a bouncy indie rock jangle to it, courtesy of Chris Hoke, whose playing is recognizable throughout the album, but really stands out here.
But perhaps the best track on Louise comes near the end with Don't Worry Mom. This song begins with a low solo guitar over which a few accent notes chime. Then, it breaks into that soothing jangle which characterizes so much of Bouldercrest Singing Group's music. For once, I can clearly pick out the Heckel's bass, which is a good thing indeed. During the chorus, the rest of the band harmonize with Daniels to round out a very nice little tune.
All in all, Louise is a lovely album which flows well from song
to song. Nothing makes me want to hit skip, and nothing feels out of place.
And although there is a certain similartity feel to all of the music, each
song is distinctive enough to keep me interested. And, as I've said before,
Paul Daniels' voice is one of the charms of the record. And with that in mind,
it's easy to see why I'm so fond of Louise and think more people
ought to take a listen to Bouldercrest Singing Group in general.