Don Gallardo “Still Here” (Southern Carousel Records / Clubhouse Records 2018)

This fine album of richly layered music on the country-rock side of Americana makes for enjoyable listening. The song-writing glistens, the musicianship is stellar, and Gallardo is a compelling singer. The songs deal with drinking, life’s travails, and the need to learn – and indeed, profit – from pain and mistakes. “The bottle puts it off until tomorrow/Then tomorrow blows in like a hurricane … Is this my curse/Or something I gotta learn,” Gallardo sings on the opener, ‘Something I Gotta Learn’. The song is country rock led by chiming electric guitars and a heavy back beat. One can hear female backup singers oohing in the background. The sound is very full indeed.

‘Kicking Up The Pavement ’, another song about fighting one’s way through life, has a slower tempo, but it is still filled by electric guitars – so flush with sound that it is reminiscent of the producer Phil Spector’s famous wall of sound. The songs do vary musically just a bit. ‘Same Ol’ Alley Blues Talkin Blues #12’ starts out with a bluegrass sound. But soon electric guitars fill the soundscape – almost to a fault.Similarly, ‘I’ll never be Alone’ starts with fingerpicked guitar and banjo. But soon enough the instrumentation is almost too lush, complete once again with singers oohing in the background.

‘Stay Awhile’ is a bouncier track, infectious, with a pleasing clarinet solo. And ‘The Losing Kind’ begins with military-style drumming and a mournful feel. But then again the song devolves into a sound that is a tad over-full, a tad over-produced. On ‘A Boat Named Harmony’, Gallardo works with a female duet partner and creates – Hallelujuah! – a slightly different sound.

Normally, Gallardo writes all his own songs. But this time, on eight of the 12 tracks, he worked with different co-writers. Perhaps it’s in the production but, despite that variety in writers, musically the songs on this CD sound similar one to the next. The album is pleasing to listen to though. If you put it on when you have friends over, they’ll be swaying to the beat. But strikingly original, it is not. Any one of these songs makes a pleasant listen. Musically, though, they leave the listener with the nagging feeling of having heard these tunes somewhere else before.

Gallardo will be touring the UK from March 17-March 30. It’s a good bet that those shows will be well worth your while. Go see him. It’ll be good. And the album? The musicianship is stellar, Gallardo is a fine singer, and the lyrics are insightful. It’s a good listen.

7/10

Summary

Lushly instrumented album on the country-rock side of Americana

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