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Album Review

Na Na Na

You can call Buxter Hoot'n Americana if you want to (and plenty do), but that doesn't make them that. I'm still trying to figure just what the hell Americana is, actually, and am probably too old to get it, having been brought up first on Country & Western and then Rock 'n' Roll. Us old farts are resistant to change, that's all there is to it. Tell you what, though. No matter what you call it, ol' Buxter is dishing it out and I'm lapping it up. They are just far enough outside the box to make them interesting and yet have the basics down. Yep. I like them just fine.

They play plain ol' rock as far as I can tell and that is never a bad thing when it's done right. There are hundreds of groups out there playing plain ol' rock and some of them are a downright pleasure to hear. Chicago's , for one. L.A.'s . Thunder Bay's Poor Young Things. There are plenty more, too. All plugged in. All rocking out. And what separates these bands from the pack is what they bring to the music.

The most obvious things Buxter brings are two unique voices and an ability to write a song specifically for them. The first Buxter song to really grab my ears was Blue Night, thanks to a link to the video (watch it here) provided by Buxter's PR man Randy Alexander. The intro struck home, very reminiscent of a Jim Dawson song I loved from the early seventies titled Saturday Airplane, but it was the dual vocal by Vince Dewald and Melissa Merrill which really drove it home. Yep, I pretty much liked these guys before I ever really heard them. It was easy. Blue Night, by the way, is taken from the band's self-titled album, released last year.

Lucky for me, Na Na Na takes up where Blue Night leaves off, the six songs vehicles for the voices. The title track starts slow and is spacey, giving way to a three/four chorus and an anthemic presence. Add the semi-manic instrumental break and end it with full-on rock chorus and you have a winner. The followup, Kids These Days, is hardcore choogle, the rhythm section working hard to lay down bedrock for the violin and ?the voices?. I'm not sure about its choice as a single, the track to work more than the other tracks, but I have no objection to it. It's just that most people will more than likely need a few listens to warm up to it. Fake Heart Attack steamrolls you with beat and some serious rhythm work helped along by powerful rhythm guitar, something this band uses to good advantage. If there is a Buxter Hoot'n entry into the Americana sweepstakes, it would have to be Haunted House, a slower song with violin weaving in and out of a smooth folk-rock stream of chords. Again, the vocals control and the ending is pure chorus. I love it when bands use more than the 4/4 and ? time signatures so when Buxter kicks into 6/8 mode, I'm all for it. Hung Up would be my favorite track on the album just for its upbeat rhythm but I find myself liking the verse/chorus more and more with each listen. The bridge is a killer, too, dual guitars kickin' it in style. Again, just straight rock. Damn good straight rock.

Nope, my favorite track is the last track, a slower song titled Better Way, with melody and vocal harmonies which make me smile. It is anthemic in its own way, the slower beat more majestic than slow, the voices reaching further and the band broadening its reach. Thing is, it is too short. The time listed is over three minutes but it feels like it's barely over one. In a way, that is a good thing because I can never seem to get enough of it and find myself wanting to play the EP through one more time just for a Better Way fix.

These guys aren't really from the Bay Area, though they now call it home. They come from the Midwest--- Indiana or some such place I have never visited--- but probably headed West to grab that big brass ring certain big cities offer music above the norm. Not a bad move when you consider the number of bands from Indiana which made it big (not including that magical period during the sixties when every area had its own stable of class rock groups). It's funny and I don't know if this just isn't me being mental, but Buxter sounds like they come from San Francisco. There is something structured but loose about their songs which I have applied to SF bands since the late sixties and the Summer of Love. No, they're not psych, but they're not formula rock either. If you're curious, why not visit them on their Soundcloud page? Lay back and take a listen. If you like it, grab a copy of Na Na Na. If you really like it, work your way backwards. It has to be better than that ten-millionth listen to Led Zeppelin IV. It has to be.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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