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Summer Hymns | Clemency (Misra)
Based in the musical hotbed of Athens, GA, Zachary Gresham's Summer Hymns may have tapped into the psychedelic boom triggered by The Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control et al, but drank from a deeper well, one that enriched their sound beyond the confines of the Pet Sounds/Sgt. Pepper axis.
In a move not unlike that made by New York's Ladybug Transistor (whose most recent, self-titled album took them from New York to Tucson), Summer Hymns entrusted the recording of 'Clemency' to Mark Nevers (Lambchop) in Nashville, TN. Joining Gresham and long-term drummer Philip Brown, are Matt Stoesse (pedal steel, dobro) and Matt Dawson (mandolin, banjo), who 'countrify' proceedings in a wholly organnic way, imbuing all but the up-beat This Hip Hop and the Neil Young-meets-Elliott Smith pop thrills of Wet Mess with a Southern soulfulness that adds depth and gravitas to some very pretty songs.
Herein lies the album's appeal; Gresham's Jason Lytle-cum-Damien Jurado-cum-Kurt Wagner voice narrating mildly obtuse, engaging tales that don't succumb to the maudlin trappings of country music, the musical backdrop similarly accessible without resorting to a string of clich├ęs.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003

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