The Hanging Stars “Songs For Somewhere Else” (Crimson Crow, 2018)

THS are carving out a nice niche for themselves. They sit somewhere between the Broken Family Band and the Rockingbirds with a dash of psychedelic hot sauce. At their most esoteric they are able to combine traditional Country sounds with something a little less traditional: Dig A Hole starts off with steel guitar leading the way in a country shuffle then a middle section that relocates Calexico to Heckmondwike which changes the perspective before the steel guitar once again cascades over the song like a river of molten lava, for the last section the brass and steel flash against each other.

The record starts with a gently Paisley introduction for On a Sweet Summer’s Day where a tumble of harmony vocals propels the song forwards and it keeps going filling ears with sunshine until towards the end when it approaches Dream Syndicate territory as the guitars tilt towards sheets of joyous noise. The barrelling piano of How I Got This way threatens something more conventional and the song is married to Country Rock and it makes the most of the union, with Miranda Lee Richards offering superb vocal support. Ennio Morricone rides in on the whistling introduction of Mean Old Man whilst Pick Up The Pieces sounds at first more like a song by Ride that something from the Americana stable and the instrumental Djupsjon is an impressionistic piece inspired by the Swedish pine forests.

Honeywater sounds like the Posies at their most melodic, a gorgeous confection, as is For You (My Blue Eyed Son) which hits that sweet spot of Country Rock, where the melody and harmony are perfectly in tune and the guitar break tickles memories of great songs before and yet manages to forge its own path. This is record full of warmth that delivers on the promise of their debut: the Hanging Stars are starting to shine brightly.

7/10

Summary

London band’s second is a delight

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

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