Magic Music – Self-Titled
Americana doesn’t get much better than this. The debut album from Colorado based Magic Music represents the result of forty plus year wait. This band of talented genre devotees is far from some purist tribute to folk, bluegrass, country, and blues. Instead, the six piece have such a command over the fundamentals of those styles that they are able to use them as vehicles for self-expression and transform their formulas into signature touches. They’ve recruited a star-studded coterie of collaborators to further strengthen the performances. Bill Payne of Little Feat fame joins the band as well while Scarlet Rivera, Bob Dylan’s violinist from his mid 70’s studio release Desire and Rolling Thunder Revue tour, influences the release with the distinctive gypsy color of playing. There’s an abundance of music on this release but none of it is difficult to contend with and, frankly, the band seems incapable of making a wrong decision through. They avoid self-indulgence and keep the songs short and concise.
It gets off to quite an auspicious start with “Bring the Morning Down”. The mix of fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and flute that fuels many of the album’s songs is used to fantastic effect on this track. The music and lyrics alike are quite suggestive and poetic without ever dictating interpretations to the listener; the biblical quality to the writing style, reminiscent of something written long ago, isn’t labored or pretentious in any way. “Bright Sun Bright Rain” continues the first song’s penchant for elegant imagery and has a strong and energetic musical arrangement that will grip listeners from the outset. “Moe’s Stumble” has a lively, danceable feel and that optimistic sound persists over the entirety of the song. The vocals, solo and otherwise, breeze over the bright musical foundation and hit all of the right melodic notes.
A lot of the tracks on Magic Music’s first release twist and change direction during their duration, but others find a groove and follow it to the end. “Gandy Dancer” is an excellent example of the latter type. The vocal harmonies are one of the overall strong points of this album and they are quite solid on this specific cut. There are only a few instrumentals in the track listing but they have an universally high quality. “The Flatbush Jig” has an appropriately throwback sound that the band never lays on too thick, but some listeners might wonder why the song isn’t a little more rambunctious considering its title. Many will regard the cinematic and exquisitely detailed “Eldorado Canyon” as the album’s best all-around song. It patiently develops from one section to another and invokes a plethora of emotions through its words and music alike. The arrangement rises and dips at critical times to encourage that kind of response; it’s a song that, really, is a clinic on how talented this band is.
“Sundance” is stylishly rambunctious and full of positive feeling that will get any listener smiling and moving. Another of the pleasing high points coming late on the debut is the radio ready, almost spiritual blues “Better Days”. This is a song rich in the details and hindsight of a life well lived and, in some ways, quite a defining track for the album as a whole. It defines the hope that fills much of Magic Music’s story and you can certainly hear the feeling they invest in the recording. Magic Music has earned this moment and they’ve made sure they’ll come with an impressive set of recordings that improve with each additional listen.
9 out of 10 stars