The Hanging Stars have always had the “cosmic Americana” tag hung around their necks but on ‘A New Kind Of Sky‘, their third release, they fully deserve to be so called as they wander wonderfully in a rather blissed out fashion across a set of songs which recollect hazy lysergic days. Taking cues from classic forebears, the band have forged a sparkling album which, on the strength of the songs and the sheer excellence of the playing, allows that it too might one day be considered a classic.
The sepia tinged artwork evokes the likes of CSN&Y and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the disc opens with two songs which share the stoned and immaculate vibes of David Crosby’s ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’. ‘Choir Of Criers’ and ‘I Woke Up In July’ have layered vocals, delicate guitars and heavenly pedal steel playing from Joe Harvey-Whyte (who plays a blinder throughout the disc). There’s a slight shift to an earlier Croz incarnation on ‘I’ve Seen The Summer In Her Eyes’ which has a Byrds’ like jangle circa ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ and they dial it a little further back on ‘Song For Fred Neil’ which is a magnificent mood setter. Here the band use a Greenwich Village folk rock pioneer vibe (including woodblocks) allied to a rumbling ambient background as they pay tribute to the late Bleeker Street troubadour.
There’s some gonzo cosmic cowboy antics on ‘Heavy Blue’ while ‘I Was A Stone’ is a gospel song of sorts from the church of goofball which, for no real reason at all, reminded this reviewer of the sort of song featured on soundtracks from movies by mavericks such as Robert Altman back in the days. Meanwhile, ‘I Will Please You’ is a killer song with a glorious piano riff and soaring guitars which tells the tale of a messianic cult leader and roars along sounding like Stoneground stomping along on the Medicine Ball Caravan with Richard Olson sounding for all the world like Sal Valentino. This song alone is worth the price of admission. There’s a slight return to the Crosby vibe in the cool groove of ‘Lonely Rivers’ and the band wind it up with the superb title song which just about sums up the album’s vibe as the singer longs for a day before he was born.
Aside from the slightly incongruous Mariachi horn fuelled Calexico/Love themed ‘Three Rolling Hills’, which, three songs in, jars the mood set by its predecessors, ‘A New Kind Of Sky’ is just sublime and is certainly The Hanging Stars’ crowning achievement.
Three shows at Kilkenny Roots Festival, May 1st to 4th. https://kilkennyroots.com/