The Treetop Flyers’ new album, Old Habits, hums a very British tune, while “going down to old, old Woodstock”. And yes, that’s a Van Morrison lyric. Suffice it to say fans of soft, supple, and “moondance” mystical music will find a “whole lotta love” for this album. And yes (again!) it conjures the magic of Woodstock, circa 1970, when the town was the epicenter of the musical world, as Van the Man, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and even a young John Martyn (along with his pal Jed the woodchuck, who may actually be a groundhog!) were hanging out and blending a very revered Anglo blues/folk/R&B into the country soul of those hometown boys, The Band. And during that idyll in magical up-state New York, the music was, quite simply, “slippin’ and a-slidin’’ and “peepin’ and a-hidin’.”
Thank you, Little Richard!
Let’s just say, Old Habits “slips and peeps”, while it “slides and hides” – a lot! And this music certainly makes a left turn away from previous records with a very American west coast vibe. Yet to be fair, the music does conjure the echo of soul guy Boz Scaggs, in his less-produced moments. That’s yet another compliment.
‘Golden Hour’ begins with a Robbie Robertson-like guitar bit, worthy of ‘The Weight’. Then Reid Morrison’s vocals glide with the sweet passion, while Sam Beer’s piano simply shimmers with soul. And then that guitar returns to re-ignite a lovely melody. Sometimes, for whatever reason, musical puzzle pieces simply fit together. The tune skips a quiet stone over a silken lake at midnight. It’s simply that smooth.
‘Dancing Figurines’ is graced with a mandolin, more heaven-sent vocals, a gently touched gregarious piano, and a guitar sound that echoes the deep melodic pathos of Beatle guy George Harrison. It’s a thing of beauty.
Yeah, some of this gets into serious Van Morrison territory. ‘100’ pulses with Geoff Widdowson’s sax, and the waterfall of joyous soul/R &B continues, with quick count vocals, and the melodic gallop (courtesy of engine room guys Rupert Shreeve and Ned Crowther) of a great dance band that wants to carve a funky groove into the floor of some sweaty local pub gig. Then, ‘Castlewood Road’ slows into a soul orbit, with big backing vocals that truly touch the ephemeral soul of Van’s (absolutely brilliant!) Tupelo Honey. And the up-tempo ‘Cool Your Jets’ rocks like shoes that just aren’t ready to be hung up–yet. And there’s really nice sax work! The tune could be an excellent and highly infectious (in the best sense of the word) hit single.
Oh – ‘River’ ups the sincere vocal, while the sax wails, and the guitar and piano say grace through the song. The tune is a passionate quiet slow dance throughout the universe.
The title tune, ‘Old Habits’, again, just oozes with deep soulful depth, and is the center dartboard toss that congeals all the other influences into the perfect Treetop Flyers’ sound. And there’s even more of that George Harrison ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ guitar passion. Then the ending guitar solo (thank you, Laurie Sherman!) lights a votive candle in some ancient church that is, thankfully, remembered in a Thomas Hardy novel. Sometimes, time and a tune are preserved (just like Keith Richards!) in perfect melodic rock ‘n’ roll amber.
In contrast, ‘Out Of The Blue’ is acoustic and idyllic, with vocal harmonies that order a ploughman’s lunch. This song is the sublime heart of the album. The gentle perfection of the song conjures the memories of Ireland’s Tir Na Nog, (the obscure) Madden and Harris, Hunter Muskett, Dulcimer, and the more sincere moments of (the great!) Magna Carta. It’s a lovely folk song.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, says the song “Evokes the joy of watching a shepherd dance as he tries to entertain his sheep”.
But then, ‘Sometimes’ gets soulful again and returns to that Boz Scaggs’ complex melodic tapestry of a tune, and there’s a delightful coda tagged onto the song’s final moments.
The final song, ‘Night Choir’, pulses with the impossible beauty of the entire album. The song (sort of) flows like melodic lava with a lovely guitar sound that caresses the wind that blows into the sails of a soulful sunset. Getting all historical, I suppose it was just a matter of time, in the course of human history, when lighter than air balloon travel would be discovered. This song floats like that big moment.
You know, Bernie Taupin, lyricist for Elton John, once wrote, “There are women, women, and some hold you tight/While others leaving you counting the stars in the night”. That’s a nice line. And sometimes an album full of music can do the very same thing. Old Habits anchors that very human soul, while it plays – with revered soul and R & B devotion – all the magic sent from way too many “stars in the night”. And that’s a pretty nice thing to always do,
Artists’ website: https://treetopflyers.co.uk/
‘Castlewood Road’ – official video: