Seattle based blue collared rockers still firing on album six.
Over fifteen years since they played their first show, Massy Ferguson, the amplified Americana rock band based from Seattle arrive with album number six, ‘Joe’s Meat & Grocery’. Named after the family store that guitarist Adam Monda’s grandfather owned in the early 1900’s, it champions the tradition of the blue collared worker. The album shows a subtle shift in sound, as the band gradually move away from the indy influenced rock of earlier albums, towards a more full throttle country rock, using a wider range of instruments to add greater texture and depth beneath each guitar driven track.
The album opener, ‘Miles Away’, tackles the impact of the recent pandemic, and how it has reset peoples values, as frontman and bass player Ethan Anderson sings, “We were broke before the sickness, and I don’t think that will change” followed by, “You take what you’re owed and give what you can spare”, before finally taking a swipe at those in charge, claiming, “You can’t expect greatness when the leadership is cheap”. Musically the rhythm section kicks off at pace that hardly relents through the whole album, while Monda’s guitar competes with Fred Slater’s keyboards for the spotlight through the final bars.
Global events during the last couple years have certainly given the bands writing duo of Anderson and Monda plenty of ammunition, but their subject matter rarely strays from previous albums and the every day life struggles of ordinary working people. What appears to be different from the last album is the way the album has been recorded, with musical arrangements being left to almost the point of recording, creating a looser, and more immediate sound, while the lyrics, which have always been slightly minimal and implied, have been written moments before recording them in the vocal booth. All this has certainly give a sense of urgency to the overall feel of the album, although lyrically it can now at times appear a touch vague and ambiguous.
What marks this album out as an improvement on previous efforts is partly down to the production by Ken Stringfellow, and the introduction of such varied instruments as banjo and flute, working along side harmonica, pedal and slide guitar, of which there is no better example than the track ‘The Hard Six’. Here the overall sound is reminiscent of early 70’s ‘Rolling Stones’, with flute substituting for the horns, while Slater’s piano playing brings back memories of Billy Powell, adding a wonderful bluesy feel that would not be out of place on a ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ album.
The new album finds Massy Ferguson continuing to evolve as a band, exploring new sounds without ever drifting too far from their roots of high energy guitar driven rock where, to quote the liner notes, “stories of small town adolescence and big city adulthood”, combine along the miles of highway that stretch between them, to give an all-round thoroughly enjoyable experience.