Taking a listen
Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets — Stay On
After making big noise with his debut album Red Bank Road, Caleb Caudle’s (www. myspace.com/calebcaudle) impending follow-up Stay On can be categorized as being a little on the safe side. Not that you can blame a man for sticking with what works and his blend of classic Americana storytelling and pop sensibility does just that. It’s an album completely uncomplicated in its approach, but appealing to even the most unyielding alt-country buff. The opening track “Loose Leaf Tree” and the subsequent “When the Moment Comes” are heavy on hypotonic influence from his local songwriting peers such as Ken Mickey and Jerry Chapman of a similar vein. Caudle paints a vivid and highly emotional portrait of love-at-all-costs romance in “Purple Nights,” a stylized number that would seem right at home on Ryan Adams’ Cardinology. The opening lines of “Merrimack” tease you with the idea that it might be a moving historical epic in the style of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” but the reality is a little farther off. Instead, it’s a touching tale of choosing duty over love, even if it does seem a bit unfocused in relating its message. Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets will be performing a benefit show for Michelle Childress at the Werehouse on Feb. 19. 68/100
Umphrey’s McGee — Mantis
With little time left atop the jam-band circuit thanks to the impending return of Phish, noodle-masters Umphrey’s McGee (www.umphreys.com) have cranked out their sixth studio and 11 th album overall. Mantis arrives just in time to nourish the frenzy for unclassifiable, unstructured rock that is sure to follow, but something is distinctly different about this one. Instead of rocking these tracks out on the road long before laying them down on the studio soundboard, Umphrey’s has taken the opposite approach. The result is a distinctly progressive, yet highly open-ended album very much in line with their jam-happy nature, but still possessing the sense of purpose that escaped their previous material to date. It’s here to provide the full experience of the scene on which the band thrives in one tidily concise package. Much of the material seems specifically written for their peers and frequent performing cohorts to make guests appearances, as is indicative of the musically incestuous jam community. Just imagine Warren Haynes belting out the crunchy outro riffs of “1348” or Jeff Coffin’s twisting clarinet on “Turn & Run” (that is him, coincidentally). It’s a big and bold with a hard, progressive edge, but look elsewhere if you want strict cohesion. With that purpose served, Mantis provides another 10 tracks to the band’s enormous catalog of quirky originals and souped-up covers. 75/100
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