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The Looking The Looking
Album: Lead Me To The Water
Label: Rhizome Man Music
Tracks: 11

If ever there was an album which you could say would fit into most people's definition of an archetypal "Americana" sound, then I would think that The Looking and their debut album "Lead Me To The Water" would be pretty high up on that list. The album is essentially a lovingly polished and accomplished collection of songs that sits proudly somewhere between Jimmy Webb and Steve Earle, and although a lot of the rough edges have been smoothed out in the production, there is still plenty to excite and enjoy from the band's brainchild Todd Carter.

Having grown up listening to wildly eclectic musical conundrums such as Syd Barrett, The Smiths, Circle Jerks, Husker Du and The Dukes Of Stratosphere and writing songs when he was a teenager, "Lead Me To The Water" may seem a bit of a surprise in terms of its musical composition and relaxed atmosphere (although the razor-edged guitar and tin box sound of "The Well" at least gives a cursory nod to the afore-mentioned mavericks) but a good tune is a good tune in whatever musical sphere you care to cock your ear, and this album has plenty to offer the new listener.

With one eye firmly on the upper echelons of the Americana charts, Carter opts (not surprisingly) for the title track as the album opener and essentially it's a very wise move as "Lead Me To The Water" is a beautifully paced acoustic-led taster of what is to follow, complete with aching pedal steel and simple but effective chorus. "Summer Of 76" is more of the same with that over-riding air of home-spun, wistful nostalgia that can be created when pedal steel and voice are in perfect accord. There's more than a hint too of Don Henley about Carter's voice, which floats ethereally in the mix at just the right level. In the right hands, the voice is an effective and potent instrument and Carter pretty much nails it.

The album as a whole veers towards the turn in the road marked 'radio friendly'. Songs like "Two Daughters" and "You And Me" have 'play me on daytime radio' written all over them, all lush chorus, throbbing yet understated bass, and chiming guitar. It's all very precise, almost methodical, with each instrument being pitched perfectly within the song. Each song has obviously been painstakingly arranged and as expected with some of the musicians on the album (Andy Hess - Black Crowes, Diego Voglina - Marshal Crenshaw, Steve Elliott - Shooter Jennings, Sasha Dobson - Norah Jones) the playing is spot on with not a single note wasted.

Yes, "Lead Me To The Water" may be 'text book' Americana, and I think it's safe to say that there isn't that edginess that permeates some of the more exciting protagonists of the genre (Israel Nash / Fred Eaglesmith for example), but The Looking and Todd Carter have made an album that contains some excellent songs, well arranged, well played and well produced and that's something that will never go out of fashion.

Ken Brown