Dead Tree is a Long Player released by John Condron and the Old Gang Orchestra in 2018 and I must say, it is a fine piece of work. Condron is at the helm of this project as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, accompanied by the bass, drum and saxophone sounds of the OGO; sounds which very much anchor and guide the record.
Indeed it is the stop-starty title track which begins the set, proving a welcome introduction to the album and to the music of the Philadelphia-born/Chicago-based Mr Condron. This ‘flowing’ sound is continued into track number two; ‘Seldom The Truth’, largely with the prominent presence of the brass. However, this is not to say that it is a one dimensional recording. On ‘Arrogant Roses’, for example, we see a funky side to the Old Gang, while numbers like ‘These Beginnings’ and ‘Dragons’ offer a more stripped back side to the album – to Condron’s delicate guitar work and sage lyricism; “…stay as young as you are for as long as you can…life will take it away soon enough…”.
Not only does Condron have the ability to impart wisdom through his lyrics, but he also has a real talent for creating terrific images; setting the scene with a sense of who/ what/where and when. The best example of this on the record might be on ‘Tides’:
“Snow is falling on Lake Michigan/She is standing smoking a cigarette with her eyes to the ground…” – in just one line, we know where we are. We’ve met our protagonist and we know what she is doing, now we just need to find out who she is and why she’s here and…and…and just like that… we are reeled right in.
It’s a good album and it feels like an album. It is musically diverse enough, but there are also similar flavours which ‘bind’ it together as a Long-Player. There are stand-out tracks, but there are no weak tracks and there are more than a few moments which teeter on the edge of brilliance.
Christopher James Sheridan
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‘Walking In Place’ – live: