Despite a slightly altered line up (with original mandolinist, Mike Chappell departing to pursue other endeavours) the Colorado-based quartet, Head For The Hills, are back with another album, in the form of the self-produced and self-released, Potions And Poisons, which will be available from November 1st.
While its predecessor, Blue Ruin, was an exploration of numerous genres, this recording is far more grounded in the sounds of straight up Americana. That said, we do get a hint of ‘…Hills’ wonderfully eclectic tastes halfway through the opening track, ‘Afraid Of The Dark’, through an unusual and almost Eastern European sounding break down. This is followed by the quirky fiddle-led ‘Suit And Tie’, which continues the more apparent Americana approach, as it flows into ‘Give Me A Reason’; a song with a melody reminiscent of traditional ballad ‘Diamond Joe’, but with lyrics which feel a bit rushed and lack the same conviction of the previous tracks.
‘Floodgates’ is one of two entirely instrumental numbers, and its intricate bluegrass mandolin runs really demonstrate the musical talent of Sam Parks, the band’s newest recruit. Title track, ‘Potions And Poisons’ is possibly the best song on the album and is an ode to life’s vices, including “Candy, coffee, cocaine and coitus”. While the alliteration in the song’s lyrics, prove rather effective, one must not overlook the quality of its free-flowing fiddle, played on this track by Joe Lessard. Perhaps the biggest departure from the album’s Americana vibe comes in the form of the five minute ‘Tell Me Lies’; with its revisited dashes of Eastern Europe, nuances of gypsy jazz and hints of skiffle; with washboard percussion provided by Bonnie Pain, of fellow Colorado group, Elephant Revival. The album bows out strongly, with the beautifully written ‘Kings And Cowards’ and ‘Bucker’, another toe-tapping instrumental delight.
With the boast of having won the locally reputable Northwest String Summit (in 2007), appearances on noted radio programmes and at well-known festivals (including SXSW) over the last decade, November’s Potions and Poisons will surely be yet another worthy addition to the band’s already impressive résumé.
Christopher James Sheridan
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