Rancho Deluxe (Self-released)
Reviewed by DJ Johnson
The very thought of "laid back country" is enough to scare away almost any potential listener these days, thanks to the tireless efforts of the artificial cowboys who make up the modern "Journey with Stetson Hats" crowd. Happily, if you know where to look, there actually are some fine groups trying to be heard over the din. Case in point: Rancho Deluxe.
The Los Angeles based trio takes this country music thing seriously. On the surface, Rancho Deluxe consists of guitarist/vocalist Mark Adams and brothers Jesse Jay Harris (guitar and plenty of other instruments) and Graham Harris (bass), but one of the things that makes their eponymous debut so special is the talented guest list. The Harris boys' father, former Flying Burrito Brother Greg Harris, lends his considerable banjo skills to the album, while his fellow Burrito Bro, JayDee Maness, does masterful work on pedal steel. Tasteful drumming by Don Huffington keeps these songs percolating along in their grooves, while Megan Lynch (fiddle), David Vaught (keyboards) and Michael Witcher (Dobro and lap steel) provide much of the country vibe that makes this the real deal.
One of the main ingredients that makes these songs stick is the not so perfect singing of Mark Adams. When it comes to nailing the notes, Adams is just a little bit sloppy, but he's never out of key. That loose approach to vocals makes these songs stand out. Too much perfection can be a bad thing. Think Waylon. These songs would still be good with a "perfect" vocalist, but I doubt they'd have the same impact. Adams' voice is just what the songs require.
It's obvious this album was well thought out, and the results are undeniably enjoyable. These guys start off with two strikes, playing laid back country and being from L. A., but they knock that 0-2 pitch right out of the park.
© 2007 - DJ Johnson