So much country and country-influenced music sounds completely artificial. Like it's made by some super pressed and starched urbanite, who takes the denim and the Stetson out of mothballs on the weekend, as an excuse to act ignorant. How, then, is one to recognize the genuine article?
The first thing that struck me about East Grand Band's Field Notes EP was the sharp but sweet tang of a pedal steel guitar, that timeless signifier of country music. It's not entirely revelatory, it's practically a cliché in country music, but it still shows East Grand Band to be steeped in tradition, and to have spent some time on arrangement and recording. The pedal steel shows the East Grand Band are serious about their music and deserve to be taken seriously.
The main difference between East Grand Band and the imitators is a wider emotional range. People putting on their country costume for the weekend, complete with mother-of-pearl buttons, focus on the obvious and the stereotypical. They would have you believe that everybody not riding the subway to work is out roping steers, drinking beer, getting in fights and driving a truck. Instead, while East Grand Band comes from a little working class town in the shadows of Detroit (Windsor, Ontario to be exact), who no doubt are hard-drinkin', hard-workin' SOBs, but there is sweetness and light, alongside the blood and bottles, like on "Fighter,” with its story of back alley brawls, that is surprisingly lovely, which sets the stage for the soaring melodic guitar solo at the end to be that much more forceful and moving.
The same could be said for the mid-tempo ballad "Calloused Heart,” which is a perfect theme song for late at night, when you're deep into your cups. Makes you want to throw a lighter up in the air, or slow dance with the loved one you have. Serves as a perfect emotional contrast to the album closer "Done Me Wrong,” with its story of life on the road, missing those you've left behind. Still, the upbeat, energetic pace shows East Grand Band are not entirely suffering, that they're managing to have a blast, while suffering from the hardships that plague just about every musician that have every lived.
East Grand Band's Field Notes EP has heart, as well as meat and muscle and brawn and grit and brains. It's complex, and simple as can be. Taking comfort in the music, and the friendships that build up around it. It's about making the best of life, even when it dishes you up some sour grapes. This is music for drinking, for talking, for dancing and for staying up late. It is the REAL COUNTRY BLUES, not some animatronic imitators. Short and sweet, you'll be playing this over and over!
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