It’s trad, dad – California country rockers mine a rich seam, but there’s too much fool’s gold and not enough precious metal.
BRIM’s debut album is intended as “a paean to the dirt-road back streets and down-to-earth humanity of rural California’s small towns and valleys.” We’re in familiar territory straight away – the first song and title track, ‘California Gold’, is glorious, – all Byrdsy three-part harmonies, lonesome pedal steel, fuzzy guitar and a chorus that’s bigger than a canyon. ‘In A Smile’ is much heavier – a dusty, country-rock boogie – and ‘Mudpie Kings’ has the swagger of early ‘70s Stones. Eating mud pie will give you sticky fingers…
‘Oleander’ is one of the album’s mellower moments – a so-so country-rock ballad with campfire vocals and Mexican guitar flourishes. We’re back in the ‘70s, for ‘Nothing Gold’, which is a bit too burnished – sadly, it sounds like The Eagles, rather than The Byrds – and ‘When The Evening Comes’ suffers a similar fate, but, melodically, it also manages to invoke ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’, which is never a good thing.
‘There’s More To This World’ is much better – starting with what could be a long-lost Velvet Underground guitar riff, then adding some organ and throwing in a blissful, sun-kissed chorus that sounds like it’s been dug up from Brian Wilson’s sandbox. From ‘Do It Again’ to, er, ‘Won’t Do It Again’ – with more organ and a Tom Petty vibe. Final song, ‘Shadowland’, isn’t as dark as its title suggests, but it is the moodiest thing here – sprawling, Neil Young-style rock.
Written and recorded in the band’s hometown of Visalia, California, these songs were laid down over the course of three summer days. BRIM were formed by singer-songwriter Daniel Rice and bandmate Hayden Doyel, as a rootsy side-project to their psychedelic hard-rock band, Slow Season, now known as Westing. Rice’s wife, ReNelle, joined to flesh out the sound with keys and backing vocals. The album is currently available as a digital release but a physical version will be out in the UK/Europe this August. Dig deep – this isn’t a 24-carat record – it’s too workmanlike at times – but there’s gold in them thar hills if you look hard enough.