Much of the debut album from El Misti sounds as if it springs from a well sunk into the ground deep in the redwood forests of California or the scrublands outside Austin, Texas not the hinterlands of Liverpool and Cheshire. The tracks speak of a powerful love of acoustic Americana and blue-collar worker’s music from the dustbowl to the bleachers.
Opening with the beautifully catchy ‘Take me To The Woods’ it starts with piano and organ before gathering steam as the production chucks every classic instrument into the mix along with a powerful vocal from Paddy Bleakley. A good reference point would be the debut album by The Rustlanders. A cracking start and the pace doesn’t let up throughout the following three songs all hewn from the same cloth. Thoughtful songwriting and classic instrumentation resulting in a real grower.
Highlights include ‘Devil Won’t Dance’ with its full-on wig out repeated coda replete with feedback and heavenly choir – dare one suggest .. epic? The single ‘The Rose That Poisoned The Ground’ heads into heavy rock territory with its crunching guitar riff and snarled vocals but manages to stay the right side of parody by keeping the chorus tight and the guitars melodic. The following track ‘No One Remembers The Loser’ is far less ‘in your face’ with its almost Gothic piano intro opening into a classic ballad complete with soaring guitar solo from co-founder Kieran Gilchrist and even a violin appears as we head into the full-on finale which perhaps could have been edited more judiciously. This is classic rock stuff and moves the album from Americana to MOR. ‘1983’ brings us back to more measured ground with a delightful narrative couched in acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin. ‘Kingdom’ is different again, daring as it does, to head towards almost prog territory with its madrigal like opening. The track builds and builds as the narrative unfolds. There are hints of the Moody Blues here. By the big finish we have synths and strings all vying for attention.
There is much to love here and this is a strong debut brimming with ideas from a band that patently have not only ambition but also the musical chops to deliver on the aspirations. The sense is that these songs would be impressive live and as a debut they should be justly delighted.