Grackles “Grackles”

Yes Country for Old Men Records, 2024

This new configuration of seasoned musicians give a fresh take on Americana as they imbue it with bluesy melodies featuring a gothic twist.

It’s usually assumed that most bands are formed first with the lyricist and lead vocalist, the rest of the group following on, but Grackles did things a little differently: after drummer Jimmy Paxson had finished touring with The Chicks in 2022, his friend and guitar player Jason Mozersky floated the idea of starting a band, and from there they spoke to producer Kyle Crusham, who agreed to do some recording with them; it was only then that they finally contacted indie rock musician Noah Lit to give them a voice, and while Lit had left the music business to become a restaurateur, they managed to lure him and back just like that, Grackles was born.

Paxson and Mozersky both worked as band members for Americana stalwart Ben Harper, and they bring an element of that sound to the table, but in choosing Lit, someone with a more rock-oriented background, for a vocalist and lyricist, the band’s sound on this, their debut album, gets an interesting, gothic slant; showcased nowhere better than on the opening track ‘It’s Coming to Ya’: “Made graves for giants and tiny fools / Drank with their wives in their swimming pools / The more you remember the more they ridicule / Don’t look back and try to keep your cool,” Lit croons with a snarl against bluesy guitar.

Described by Lit as a “mystical noir story”, ‘San Antone’ tells a dark, brooding alternate history of the city that he and Mozerksy grew up in. “I’m goin’ down to sweet Marisol / She’s the only one that scratches that itch / Her father’s now her mother and her Mothers a witch,” Lit’s voice rumbles with shades of Nick Cave, while Lauren Harris features on backing vocals and the legendary Charlie Musselwhite joins them on harmonica. ‘Eternal Return Blues’ snakes and slithers along as Lit contemplates returning to a loved one, melding into a funky guitar breakdown and then dissolving back into its slinky sound.

“Up past the split oak where the shadows spread and grow / A yellow warbler warbles on / I say we should post up and shelter in the glow / But you keep pushing me along,” sings Lit on ‘Distant Lightning’, its tone like its lyrics, lighter and airier than the songs that come before it, gentle and folky as it rolls along with worry-free ease. ‘Top of the World’, with some smoky harmonies from Kat Edmonson, also sees Lit perfectly content in his bubble, unworried by the world at large: “Cold winter freezes turn to hot summer breezes, that’s alright / I’m on top of the world while it tumbles down.”

‘Barn Burner’ flirts with surf rock as Lit’s vocals rumble along, deep and low à la Leonard Cohen, offset pleasantly with higher backing vocals again from Harris, while Edmonson makes another vocal appearances on ‘Far Away from Nothing’, but this time she’s given the chance to duet with Lit rather than just back him, her back-and-forth with him feeling as natural as a 70s folk duet. Heavy on reverb and lyrically defiant (“There’s no time, time to fix what we have done / There’s no time, time to shelter from the sun / So I won’t be back tomorrow / Stick a fork in me I’m done”), ‘When I’m Gone’ feels like a classic southern rock song. ‘Send Back the Roses’ is a bit of a rambler clocking in at almost seven minutes in length, but with touches of David Bowie psychedelia and heavy, sweeping string sections, it never feels like time wasted.

Grackles is band of industry veterans who’ve seen all the music industry has to offer – Paxson, for example, has played drums for a range of people as wide as Beyoncé and Nancy Sinatra – so if the fact that they have still decided to come together and shape something new should be itself make you want to take notice, but if it takes more than that to sway you, the unique and haunting quality the album offers can bear most of the heavy lifting.

7/10
7/10

About Helen Jones 134 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.
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