This digital-only release EP can be seen as a sign of the times we are all currently having to endure. I am not sure how much of a long-term band Los Brujos are, and they definitely aren’t the ‘90s Argentinian rock band they share a name with, comprising as they do musicians who met on the Massachusetts’ roots music scene, Chuck Melchin of Bean Pickers Union and Michael Spaly of Green Monroe, who have a long history of playing together and have collaborated on various previous projects. Like many musicians, they found themselves with time on their hands due to COVID and decided to record the ‘Alchemy’ EP remotely from their current home studios in Michigan and New Hampshire. The EP, or Extended Play 45, first appeared as long ago as 1952 and the format has gone through various phases of popularity right up to the present day when it again is experiencing a rise in popularity with artists. EPs are relatively cheap to produce and allow artists to maintain their profile during the various types of COVID lockdown and as they are not necessarily part of a mainstream career plan they can be more experimental in their sound, collaborators and song selection.
‘Alchemy’ is far from experimental in terms of its overall sound being a five-song collection with an air of melancholy surrounding the self and jointly written songs, accompanied by acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, bass and fiddle played by Melchin and Spaly with splashes of organ, piano and drums on a couple of tracks by additional musicians Chris Coughlan and Jim Larkin, plus additional vocals by Carla Ryder. While the music may not be innovative it is extremely well-played string band music with excellent vocals that at times echo Crosby, Stills and Nash and early Eagles and if it hadn’t been for COVID, it may never have been recorded.
The EP opens with ‘Reckoning ’ with its guitars and mandolin evoking an eerie sound with luscious harmonies. ‘Bronco’ is up next with a country-folk sound that is not about a horse but a popular Ford SUV. While not invoking their Argentinian namesakes, ‘Everything I Can’ is more up-tempo with a shuffle beat and splashes of fiddle and electric guitar. ‘High Times’ can be said to be a standout track on ‘Alchemy’ and again features superb harmony singing but this time there are piano and organ textures that bring a variety to the track and could indicate a future direction of travel. The closing track ‘Bitter Blue’ signs off with lovely fiddle and mandolin sounds.
There we have it, ‘Alchemy’ is an EP for our times. If you have any interest in Bean Pickers Union or Green Monroe you will want to pick this release up. If you fancy some well-played roots-music with great harmonies that echo those of the ‘70s, then you may also want to give this a listen. It doesn’t require the entry price of a full album and you may just be pleasantly surprised. Time will tell whether Los Brujos do anything in the future, I suspect the response to this EP will determine that to a large extent.