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Album Review

INNOCENT MAN
Home Grown

I have to go with my gut on this one and my gut is telling me that these guys were somehow transported through time and dropped on my doorstep because I did something someone liked very, very much. I feel like the fifteen year-old kid sitting on his bed just before turning out the lights, before whom appears a scantily-clad and very hot lady (let us say, a 30 year-old, for mental picture purposes). Like him, I am looking toward the sky and saying “Thank you, God” with a look of amazement and ecstasy on my face and a heart filled with wonder. Such is the power of music.

I almost passed on Innocent Man. A guy named Cody who had something to do with the recording sent me the files with a request to listen and I was reluctant (like every egotistical idiot, I think my time is worth something) but I did. One time through I wasn't impressed but there was something there I couldn't quite put a finger on. I sent Cody a note saying don't expect anything but I want to listen again. That was a good twenty listens ago--- more if you count the multiple hearings of Whistler and 15, two tracks which have wrapped their tentacles around my brain and won't let go. It was almost like they dragged me into a tunnel and it took me that many listens to find my way out. But I made it and I'm none the worse for wear. I think. Maybe better, now that I think about it.

I have no idea what makes each of us like or dislike the music we hear. Through the years I have tired of the same old while that seems to be music to everyone else's ears. While people were listening to Steely Dan and Billy Joel, I was digging through dumpsters for the likes of The Damnation of Adam Blessing (later, just Damnation) and Country Funk and Glass Harp. Something about the stars (soon to be labeled “superstars”) just did not impress me beyond an album or maybe even a song. I wanted the album less traveled, I guess. I still do.

So let me just say that Innocent Man's Home Grown is starting out its life that way--- an album which will have to fight its way through white noise to be heard at all--- and that's a shame. There is good music in those grooves, music deserving to be heard, and it will be a battle. No big thing, though, because Innocent Man isn't new to the game, having been around hometown Boise for a few years at least, and they know the rules. No overnight success for these guys. It's practically written in the contract.




Doesn't matter to me. This band is my latest guilty pleasure. It brings back the seventies like few others do. 15 is one of those songs rooted in the seventies--- the early seventies--- a pit bull of a song--- the 6/8 time signature giving the rhythm section (that's the bass and drums, folks) a chance to drive. Violins and guitars can live off of a song like this for weeks. Speaking of weeks, that's how long I would have Whistler be if I didn't know it would end the life of the band after the first few hours. When I hear it, I'm hearing the music filtered through a few years of inhabiting longhair music venues like The Eagles Auditorium in Seattle and Billy Shears in Eugene. It's a rockin' light show with a beat thanks to the instrumental lineup and that unique and raspy sound of guitar, organ and violin. A killer of a song which should have a longer instrumental break, though maybe it works best as it is. It's length has me listening again and again. I can't seem to get enough.

They work their way through a number of songs on this album, many having ghosts of Steely Dan and early Wilderness Road and Moby Grape and a host of other bands I loved during my “hippie” days. When I close my eyes, I can almost picture them on a flatbed in a field somewhere pickin' and grinnin' between rockin' 'n rollin' because they do, on songs like Break It Down, have gaps in their teeth and a barndance kick in a rock 'n roll kind of way. It is hardly all that but just enough to give you that feeling of deja vu. Like you maybe had heard these guys before. Even if you aren't able to remember the late-sixties and early-seventies.

Does Innocent Man have a chance to make it? I would think so. I have noticed the past couple of years a look to the past--- the early-seventies' past--- and not from the boomers as you might think, but from the kids--- the ones who are tiring of the pablum being offered up by the major labels. They seem to appreciate the in-your-face quality of the music back then--- the feel of it, if you will. I almost laugh out loud every time I talk with a young person who is blown away that I know the music of those bands. I mean, how many older people can they find with whom they can talk about Cat Mother and Trapeze and Potliquor? Not too damn many if only because there ain't that many of us left. What's that, you say? You dig those guys? Well, guess what, kids. You're going to love these guys, too!

For the older folks, I think it will take something drastic to get them to listen. Like a live concert. Listening to the album, I got a tremendous urge to hear the band live. I mean, an urge! And I would back that up with an analogy but the only urge I can think of at the moment is age-inappropriate. That's okay. Use your head. You'll think of one.

While you're thinking, you might want to head to their website (click here) to read about the band. Never hurts to know about the musicians, you know. Then head to their ReverbNation page to listen (click here). Start with Whistler and work your way through all of the songs a few times. The ones that grab you right off will make you listen further and with each listen, the album gets better and better.

The album is scheduled to drop February 9th. Did I mention they were from Boise? Not too many places I think are better to be from. Maybe Moose Jaw or Whitehorse or, if you really want to be from somewhere cool, Spillamachine. For this band, though, Boise will do. As far as Innocent Man? They will do nicely, too. Very nicely.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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