First things first: I released a split CD with The Rutabega and Owen many moons ago, so obviously I like the Rutabega. However, I’d lost touch with him (The Rutabega was, up until recently, one man, Josh Hensley) and hadn’t listened to much of his music for a number of years. I was surfing the internet recently and came across his latest release, Brother the Lights Don’t Work, and was really impressed with the eight-song, forty-minute album. I’m not really sure to whom I could compare The Rutabega. I’ve heard people say everything from Elliott Smith to the Pixies, but most of the time the sound seems unique unto itself. Hensley, who plays guitar and sings, is now joined by Garth Mason on drums and keys. (However, this album has a lot more going on, including occasional strings, backing female vocals, and melodica.) His drumming is what really makes this album shine. He’s powerful when he needs to be and gentle when it’s called for. It brings a new dimension to the sound and fills it out. Brother the Lights Don’t Work is bookended by a couple of minute-long tracks, while the rest of the album consists of two good singles (“Come Back Big Brother” and “The Shaman”) clocking in at three minutes each and then four tracks at over five minutes each (including the twelve-and-a-half minute jam, “Turn on the Summer,” which is my favorite track on the album). None of the longer tracks drag, though, and that shows a talent for keeping the listener engaged. Many of the songs build and break, always a key ingredient in an emotionally touching song. The payoffs are huge and so is the album. My only complaint is that I wish there was more here. Eight tracks just don’t seem enough. More please.
–kurt (Self-released, theseknottylines.blogspot.com)