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The Orange Humble Band | Humblin' (Across America / Half A Cow)
Arriving some three years after their debut album release, Assorted Creams, which had already taken almost three years to come to fruition, Humblin' (Across America) only took a relatively brisk eighteen months gestation from recording to release. And frankly I hope that's the absolute longest I have to wait for the next instalment. The core line-up of the band, principal songwriter Darryl Mather (ex-Lime Spiders and Someloves), fellow Australian Anthony Bautovich (Coronet Blue), Mitch Easter (ex-Let's Active and renowned producer of, amongst others, Pavement and early REM) and finally Ken Stringfellow (Posies and a bewildering number of other frequently simultaneously active projects) survives intact from their debut album. Mostly recorded at the celebrated Ardent Recording Studios in Memphis, a host of legendary southern musical figures have been enlisted in support. Occupying the drum stool throughout is Jody Stephens (ex-Big Star, Golden Smog), no doubt feeling at home as all three classic Big Star albums were recorded here. Jim Dickinson guests on piano on the album's pensive opener, Vineyard Blues, whilst Spooner Oldham, half of one of the classic songwriting partnerships with Dan Penn, plays organ and piano on several other tracks. Featuring, as on Assorted Creams, a blend of power pop, rock and country, Humblin' (Across America) has the added ingredient this time of more than a little southern soul - several tracks, What's Your Crime and the single Any Way You Want It amongst them, wonderfully enhanced by bold brass arrangements. Ken Stringfellow handles all vocals throughout and has, quite simply, never sounded better than he does here, exuding emotion with strength, depth and clarity (Apparently he was so impressed with the results himself, that he purchased the microphone used on the recordings). Featuring stunning arrangements, wonderful chord changes, to-die-for tunes, ringing guitars (Mitch Easter in fine form), fluid pedal steel lines and a horn section to boot, this album really has the lot. Thirteen songs and two short instrumentals encompassing the euphoria of Annie Run Run Run, the introspection of Can You Imagine and the pristine pop of Freewheelin', Humblin' (Across America) emphatically hits the paydirt strongly hinted at by its predecessor. Recorded by a genuinely stellar line-up of musicians and enriched by the location of the recording and its musical heritage, The Orange Humble Band have crafted such a wonderful album that perhaps the core members of this part-time band ought to strongly reconsider their musical priorities. A classic.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001