Head For The Hills is a Colorado-based four-piece consisting of Adam Kinghorn (guitar), Joe Lessard (violin), Matt Loewen (bass) and Sam Parks (mandolin); vocals are shared between them. Their music is best described as contemporary Americana-or bluegrass-styled original song, and I’d guess the band members are jointly or severally responsible for the writing (tho’ curiously the package doesn’t credit any of the material). The songs look at the darker side of the human condition, especially love and life for sure, yet the musical settings are predominantly uptempo and comparably bouncy in the nature of straightahead bluegrass.
Picking and scraping is authentic and solid, if largely unflashy, and the overall impression is that of a confident outfit who play well together and who are comfortable with their chosen idiom. I learn from the press sheet that Potions And Poisons is the band’s fourth album of original music, which kinda bears out that feeling. What’s strange, however, is that after one playthrough the tracks which made the most impact on me were the two breezy instrumentals Floodwaters and Bucker, both of which clock in at under three minutes and just do the business (as it were), taking the runs and fills naturally then quiting the stage. The songs themselves – with the exception of Kings And Cowards, of which more below – mostly seem either to overstay their welcome (too repetitive) or else come out too word-conscious, for reasons I can’t quite hit on; and yet the guys’ soloing is both concise and relevant in the context of the songs. And for all the band sticks with the bluegrass/Americana model, there’s occasional moments of oddball adventure – for instance, halfway through opening track Afraid Of The Dark, there’s an abrupt tempo change into ¾ time and a snip of reverse-tracking before the original structure reappears. Several tracks inhabit a melody groove or line that feels aimless in its structural context – I kinda expect more. So Telling Me Lies is a refreshing departure – a jaunty mid-tempo swinger that comes straight out of a late-night Hot Club gypsy-jazz session (and features guest washboard from Bonnie Paine of fellow-Colorado-ers Elephant Revival – she then sticks around to sing a duet vocal on the following track, Kings And Cowards, which also brings a viola and cello into the texture and comes out as another of the album’s most memorable cuts). Yeah, there’s some impressively interesting playing on the album (Sam’s mando generally, and Joe’s sweeping embellishments on the title song, for instance), but I can’t altogether escape a feeling of only half registering melodies and lyrics for at least some of the timespan of this record.
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