Wayne Graham “1% Juice” (Hometown Caravan, 2020)

Wayne Graham, a musical partnership between brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles, badge themselves as an alt-country/Americana group, and this self-produced twelve-track album lives up to the billing, with a foot firmly in both camps. With roots in the music of East Kentucky, Central Appalachia, the band formed in 2010 and have half a dozen album releases to their name. Their latest release blends a wide range of influences, while never losing their Americana core.

The result is a fresh sound, with unexpected pleasures coming at you from all sides. ‘Bad News to Break‘ has echoes of Beck circa ‘Mutations‘, or even Devo, with its insistent beat, and distorted synth low down in the mix, switching from that beat to an extended instrumental outro.

Opening track  ‘Tapestry of Time‘ has prominent acoustic guitar, but adds a dreamy chilled vibe summoning up the folk/prog rock meeting of Syd Barrett or Michael Chapman, progressing this time to an outro featuring Allman-esque guitar.

Songwriting credits are shared between guitarist and vocalist Kenny, and his brother Hayden on drums, and the range of styles are witness to a playfulness with their varied influences, the title track ‘One Percent Juice‘ an instrumental with hints again of Beck, with it’s two contrasting sections repeated and building to an understated climax.

Production throughout is rich, but never overwhelms the songs, with core instrumentation of guitar, keys, bass and percussion supplemented tastefully and sometimes surprisingly, as when mariachi trumpet makes an unexpected but welcome appearance on slow tempo ‘Infinitude‘, which up to that point had a gospel leaning, before the song takes another turn when some distorted vocals a la David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks‘ appear, low down in the mix.

What For‘ is closer to the mainstream, with slide guitar added to leisurely acoustic guitar and keys, as Graham sings “Doesn’t make much sense if it’s not about you/and though I try in vain it just doesn’t come through/and I lay back in your arms and I hear you say/if it’s not about family then throw it away“, before a fresh note is struck again with found sounds in the form of birdsong in the instrumental outro.

Vocals are gentle, but full, leaning towards a West Coast sound, notably on ‘Passenger Train‘ and album closer ‘Some Days‘, which has a Byrds feel, but supplemented with strings, as well as Nashville Telecaster twang, while on ‘Never Die‘ the same vocals overlay a complex instrumental track with changing tempos with hints of Man, emphasising the breadth of their musical palette.

An ambitious challenge met with gusto–a fresh and invigorating listen.

Fresh and highly successful blend of Americana with influences from Beck to Syd Barrett

About David Jarman 122 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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