Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Flounders Without Eyes

Sometimes I'm left wondering whether or not Lloyd Maines has the Svengali-like ability to seduce bands he produces so he can get the sound and performance he wants, leaving the artists groggy, sore and in need of a long, hot shower. He doesn't just play a guitar with bigger balls than anybody else, he literally has a guitar nobody else can physically play without vise-grips and a ballpeen hammer. It must be like having Tony Soprano remodel your guest bathroom. Don't argue.

With this in mind, I listened to the Flounders Without Eye's (FWE) latest, "What's the Rush" (Zone Records), and I noticed a few things I did not expect on this memorable and thoroughly satisfying record.

The band features Jenny Mier and her brother Joe, plus Don Baker, Mike Morgan, Andy Markoff and Sam Hendricks. They are all fine, seasoned and sturdy players, having played chingos on the demanding Austin club scene for a while now. I really like their sound, although I hate to characterize artists, but I was left thinking of the progressive country/southern rock vibe I grew up around. Like Marshall Tucker meets Graham Parsons; drop acid together and have a freaky baby.

I love Jenny. I want to protect her. I can envision Mier killing on her vocals for her song, "The Bad Guy", the single on What's the Rush; when Lloyd coos, "mind if a lay down a little pedal steel track on that?' and blowing everyone's mind about what a real pro sounds like and what "presence" is. Because if Jenny and FWE didn't have it before, they sure got it now. Her singing is strong, I don't mean butch. She has a sweet alto, with just a hint of throaty-ness for a nice edge. She is deeply earnest; when she says "the bad guys always win" I'm left feeling her. She had me at hello. You go girl.

When "Drift Away"comes around I hear a woman hopelessly possessed by love. "Damn, he pulled another Terri Hendrix on the poor woman!" I'm not judging. Far be it for me to judge. Whatever happened that night we are all better for. "Drift Away" is as good as it gets. Her performance is at once controlled but immensely soulful; almost mournful and completely unforgettable. All the songs are great, but this is the gem of the record and makes it worth having.

Flounderwithouteyes came to my attention as a "jam band." Unfortunately, all the songs on What's the Rush are around three minutes, so I feel like they didn't real get to stretch like the wanted and could show off doing. There's no doubt the Flounders are all capable of exploding. These guys gig everywhere. They are notoriously fab players, tightly blowing doors. What's the Rush has great playing all over it, and here's what surprised me most: despite the presence in the studio of a giant like Lloyd Maines, it's not the music, sound and production that I was drawn to. It was the band that I kept thinking about as I listened. All those things Maines contributed to were expertly rendered, but "the band" is noticeably packed with talented writers who are all different from each other in interesting ways.

As impressed as I was of Jenny, the artistic soul of the Flounders seems to be Mike Morgan. "I was most moved by the haunting "Set a Place." People these days are so cynical, the issues expressed in this song aren't preachy-sounding, or angry either. "Set a Place" shows that music can reach out to people and still be cool.

Don Baker makes it clear by the strength of his song-craft to hold his own easily with the others. However, "Hills of Carolina" seems a little out there and not quite in keeping with the direction of the record. It could have waited for the next record.

Any group that can keep that many writers together as a functioning unit for one rehearsal, much less the level of achievement and command of the stage like the Flounders have, and for as long as they have, they deserve our love and support. They will no doubt go on to great things in the future and produce more music that I think could become classics some day if given the chance.

see: Buy at CD Baby.


At 3:28 AM , Blogger judge chief charly hoarse said...

-different kind of fishing report, flounders' a credible fish


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