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Shine Your Light On Me

Talk about a step into the past! is a step into the rabbit hole and two steps to the left. No, not psychedelic exactly, though they do dabble in it a bit. They are more of a flashback to the days of rock festivals before big money took them over, to park concerts with a flatbed and two plugs on a light pole, to long hair and bags of joints being passed one by one down rows of music freaks grooving on the sounds. Call it nostalgia, but those of us who experienced those things will not be able to hear Shine Your Light On Me without our fond remembrances. In spite of disdain from youthful snobs, that was our music and those were our times and just like our parents and their mental trips through the Great Depression and the Post-WWII years, we cannot help but remember.

So when a bunch of kids come along (kids meaning anyone who is not already collecting Social Security) and nail not only the sound but the feel of the era, you have to do a double-take. I'm not talking jam music or retro-psych or any of the generalized takes on music from the past. I am talking the real thing. Shine Your Light On Me is a sci-fi step back to the early '70s, swear to God, and if you don't believe me, plant the needle on track one (er, sorry--- start from the beginning) and let the fun begin. HF lays down a groove on Lost Highway that crawls under your skin after only a few measures, major chords over a bass and drum riff so familiar you swear you've heard it a few thousand times but cannot remember where, perfect for the classic and spot-on lead guitar to glide over. The first few chords of Shine Your Light On Me will have you thinking Cat Stevens but quickly turns into a gliding country rock tune a la Dickie Betts era-Allman Brothers, piano laying out Chuck Leavell backup throughout. You getting the picture? Muscle Shoals has a slight lean toward Canada's Steel River and Louisiana's Potliquor (among others), laying down electric piano and organ next to and over each other with brassy lead guitar licks for good measure. They even throw in references to country livin', an overlying theme of the period.

If you want anthemic, they slow things down on The Lonesome Ballad of Robert Zimmerman, organ chords and guitar sliding in and out while the song works toward bridges which should have been much longer, guitar solos built upon solid band foundation. Between the lyrics and the breaks, this is the '70s--- at least a large part of the '70s, and they continue with Queen of the Damned, with its New York folk-rock sound and folk-psych lyrics. Things then pick up a little (Down By the River) (no, not that one) and then slide back into the groove (Maggie) before really hitting stride with the guitar-heavy Devil On My Tail (the slide work is a real plus, pushing the sound outward).

They reprise Shine Your Light On Me to cap it all off, this being Shine Your Light On Me (Remix), and change it just enough to make it worthwhile (it is a good song, after all, and not the same version, so what the hell, huh?) and glide off into the sunset Cowboy fashion (and I mean Cowboy, the band, who in their day had a country-rockin' style similar to their label-mates, The Allmans).

Look. When I say that Hogan's Fountain captures the '70s, I mean it. I hear song and production values reminiscent of my favorites (and few others', judging from sales) of the period--- Country Funk, Cowboy, Cat Mother, the aforementioned Potliquor and a handful of others whose names escape me at the moment (I will be kicking myself later for missing the opportunity of mentioning a few bands I have revered all these years, but the memory fails...). We can thank songwriter and lead vocalist Michael Franklin for that. The songs here, oddly enough all written in 2004 and not recorded until this year, have that grain of '70s truth in them, each and every one. You can thank the rest of the band, too, because there was a sound in those days (mostly rejected by the hit mongers of that time) and these guys nail it.

You may be thinking, why should I want to hear music from the '70s... Well, I'll tell you. Most of that music lay dormant until the Internet took the power out of the hands of the labels and the media and allowed people access to buried treasure. That is what this is. New buried treasure. I suggest you at least take a listen. These guys are an anomaly. Pass them up and you may not have another chance...

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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