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Album Review

Not a Whisper To Be Heard

In Indie terms, when Whispering Pines rock, they rock like Filligar, a Chicago band which is just beginning to gain traction outside that burg. When they go country, they twang like Chris Berardo & the Desberardos. Of course, you have to throw in a touch of for good measure because they float between the two genres seamlessly and to really hear them, River Rouge is needed. Who is RR? If you don't know, you might want to. They are a group of musicians out of L.A. who can rock the place or put people at their ease with equal proficiency. If you want a listen, here is a link to their excellent Black Licorice video. Probably won't help much in the way of comparison, but it's a start.

Let's try this. Whispering Pines' roots are late-sixties and early-seventies country rock, a period of music which is very dear to my heart. It was a special time for me, a time of long-hairs and earth mommas and the smell of dirt because everything about my favorite music then was back-to-the-land. You want names? Cowboy, for one, a band which got little respect during their all-too-short existence in its original form. Pure Prairie League and Heartsfield and Uncle Jim's Music, too. And Country Funk and Randy Burns & The Sky Dog Band. And others. I grabbed anything and everything country rock back then and it got under my skin and helped carry me through many a hard time, which were never as hard as I used to think they were.

I'm not sure if it is me or whether there is really something in the music I have been getting into lately, but I'm thinking it's the music. There is this unique sound and feel lately similar to many of the bands during that period which I have not really heard since. There is a simplicity in the sound or maybe a simplicity in the message and it strikes me full force every time I hear it. It strikes me every time I hear Whispering Pines and I've been hearing it a lot lately.

Whatever it is, it doesn't take them long to grab the ears, Move On having that same flowing rock and roll sound that RR's Black Licorice does. Whoo! I mean, that picked guitar is solid! And dig that harmonica!

They slow it down a bit and step into the country with Come & Play, which has a very slight vocal nod toward Wilderness Road as they sounded on their self-titled homage to the Old West back in '71 or so. What? You thought The Eagles came up with the first Western rock opera? Nope. And again, that guitar!

One More Second Chance sounds like it comes from the Capricorn Records vaults, circa the mid-seventies, having that southern yet R&B base which made Capricorn and Muscle Shoals unique. Especially notable are the keyboards (God, but I love that Hammond B-3 sound!) and the simple but effective lead guitar. This is the kind of song which can carry you through a bad day. You know what? There is a bit of Delaney & Bonnie in there, too. And Lovin' Spoonful. (What? I think the man has lost his mind, Margaret! Or his hearing.)

The guitar intro to Purest Dreams sets up a jam I can't get enough of and I have played it more than other tracks on the album just to slake my thirst. I mean, this is classic seventies stuff here and they nail it down as well as anyone I've ever heard. Simple with a slight choogle and an echo of what The Marshall Tucker Band was doing way back when. Just hearing that rolling bass and those dueling guitars on the bridge makes me a happy man.

They country it up a bit on GA Highway and while it is not my favorite, it holds its own. And it is a prelude to my favorite track on the album: Wolf Moon. You know that Marshall Tucker sound I was mentioning? Here it is again, and this time a bit more evident. Not that these guys mimic MTB. They just go there, probably without even realizing it. Fine with me because it gives way to an excellent bridge of organ and guitar that makes me laugh, it is so good. I mean, when I hear it, I'm back at The Roman Forum between Eugene and Springfield spilling beer on myself and just happy to be alive.

They liven it up a bit on Love Is Free, another ghost song of the seventies (nice hook in this one), country rock it up on Sunrise To Sunset, crank it up a bit on Fine Time, then cap it off with a song which would have made Teegarden & Van Winkle downright delirious. Probably Cowboy as well.

What can I say? Don't ask me to make comparisons to bands today, and especially the bands everyone's heard, because I can't. There are plenty of bands out there playing the notes, but they mostly don't have the feel or the sound or something. Do yourselves a favor, though. Take a listen to these guys. If you hear even a small amount of what I hear, you're going to buy this album. And you're going to play it. A lot.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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