Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sellaband's Trail and Memories...

I just had a good listen to the three tracks offered on the Sellaband web site by a band called Trail. Keeping in mind that these are mp3 files and there are some sonic compromises associated with compression, I'd like to thank the band for screwing away my workday by shifting my mind away from the tasks at hand and forcing me to relive some rather pleasant memories of my very first days as a musician...days spent staring at Fender Guitar catalogs as if they were my older brothers hidden Playboy magazines.

When I first began to play the guitar and later, the bass, I would walk home from school and linger at the window of the local music store. In the window there stood a half dozen Japanese guitars. They were similar to corresponding American models, but there was always something just a bit "off" about them. The pickguards were perhaps a bit garish, the finishes too sparkly, the headstocks close, but mis-shapen enough to make the instruments have the appearance of trying to be something they were not.

On occasion I would make my way to the back of the store. And there, in the cool air laden with the sweet aroma of tolex, dusty tube amps and bins of sheet music, I stood and stared at what was to me the most beautiful form I could imagine the angels had brought to this earth. Genuine, in the flesh Fender guitars! The single most captivating image was the headstock. I still catch myself staring at my '62 Precision Bass in the same way if I had a nineteen year old Bridget Bardot in my sights.

And that brings me back to Trail. Listening to their music, I found myself drifting off into those early days when I would stare at pictures of George Harrison to see if I could copy the way his left hand formed a chord on the guitar neck. I think that it's mainly the guitar sounds on these songs that does that.

My earliest bands played surf music because none of us wanted to sing. After we found that singing drew more girls, we made the jump to songs by The Animals, The Yardbirds and of course The Beatles. Trail's guitar sounds are nostalgic in character. The tone as well as the voicings and parts, in their simplicity, have a freshness that cuts through the bullshit of the arsenal now available to guitarists that many times dials their sound out of the realm of human empathy.

There is a wonderful album by my pal, Richard Bennett entitled "Themes for a Rainy Day" which is THE dictionary of vintage guitar sounds. Richard has been doing it for a few years and with the best in the business. His discography is gargantuan. Trail is well on the way to developing a sonic signature at a very precocious stage of development.

Trail's vocal sound is equally captivating. There is youth and angst tempered with restraint and good musicianship. It isn't easy to get mature ideas across and sound fresh doing it. "Shapes of Things" by the Yardbirds comes immediately to mind as a good example. Again, Trail deserves high marks in this department.

There is however, one area which I question. The drums and bass tracks are played very well, but for my taste, they are not as impactful as the guitars. I would like to hear a bit more "in your face" mixing attitude. But again, these are mp3 files. If the mixes are a matter of taste, fair enough. But I can't help thinking that given the right production resources, Trail would sound bigger than the recordings on the web site indicate.

In any case, Trail is fast approaching their goal of generating enough belief in their music to warrant making a top-notch album. I'm looking forward to hearing this band tear it up.

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