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Telegraph Canyon – You from Before (Velvet Blue)

Telegraph Canyon - You From Before
16 February 2016

It took this Fort Worth, TX sextet – named for canyons located outside both San Diego and Telegraph, TX – only two years to follow up their 2007 debut All the Good News with 2009’s “uplifting and absorbing” (my words, issue 65) The Tide and the Current. So the six years it took to finally release this third LP seemed like ages. According to their bio, singer Chris Johnson’s “personal life imploded,” which even left him homeless for awhile, as touring for the unexpectedly successful Tide took its toll. That makes getting new music from them all the more reason to cheer. You finds the band veering off into uncharted, yet stylistically kindred directions, notably in the more evocative, unconventional, swampy country/blues-rock that dominates the LP’s first half. The devil-rousing “Flood” belligerently clomps like a prison chaingang, while the similarly galumphing “Hung Up” – co-written by Los Angeles’s Mike Sempert, whose 2014 Mid Dream LP was lovely – marries reverbed, psych-inspired guitars with a pumping ’60s organ. Even better, the funky, falsetto-tinged, Silver Convention “Fly Robin Fly”-evoking single “Why Let it Go” blends a ‘70s cop show-themed rhythm with a blaring, rush hour traffic-honking horn finale. (Its sinister video of a man leading a double life further accentuates the song’s late-night, illicit back-alley barroom vibe.) Later, the tempestuous “Wheel to the Garden,” highlighted by Johnson’s gospel-tinged vocals, builds to a blustery, feedback-drenched crescendo.

As I noted in my review of The Tide, the band also have a proclivity for “gently affecting mood pieces” and “euphoric pop,” and that skill continues on You. Quieter songs like the spectral, piano-trilled, horn-flecked opener “Hundred Years” (accented by angelic female backing coos and Austin Green’s calming, heart-throbbing drumbeat) and the downhearted, strings-shaded, Neil Young-educing closer “Magnetic” are goosebump-generating and spine-shivering. Those songs co-exist with more anthemic rockers like the pulsating, driving “Mantle” and the elevating, chugging “Honey,” both sounding as redeeming as “A Light in the Field” did on The Tide. The album is benefitted by stark, echoing production – by Johnson, with Denton, TX’s now-defunct Centro-Matic’s Mike Pence and Will Johnson – which makes you feel like the band is right in your living room, with every floorboard creak amplified. And with Johnson (Chris, not Will) crooning like a grizzled, moonshine-swilling mountain man in a Southern, tobacco-chewing, Woody Harrelson in True Detective drawl, it gives the moody, rustic ambience on You an added authenticity. (velvetbluemusic.com)

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