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George Usher Group / Steve Almaas | Days Of Plenty / Kingo A Wild One (Parasol)
Both George Usher and Steve Almaas were previously members of the 80s roots pop band Beat Rodeo. Following various projects and some number of years apart, they are both recording together again, albeit separately, under the wing of Parasol Records. Strengthening the tenuous link even further, both albums have been produced by the ubiquitous Mitch Easter. George Usher is a former member of The Schramms as well as the man responsible for penning Not The Tremblin' Kind, the title track of Laura Cantrell's excellent debut album of last year. Days Of Plenty is a collection of quality roots flavoured pop, dealing predominantly with the time-honoured themes of love and relationships. Sounding vocally very similar to Matthew Sweet, Usher's songs are imbued with more twang, courtesy of Doug Larcy than the flashier guitar pyrotechnics employed by the likes of Robert Quine or Richard Lloyd on Sweet's material, although both are equally adept at melancholic country flavoured pop. The album's charms may not become immediately apparent but it's undoubtedly a grower that gains in stature after repeated plays.
On Kingo A Wild One, meanwhile, the roots flavour is even more pronounced. It could be argued, with some justification, that Almaas is not saying anything new here, either lyrically or musically and it's certainly a long way from his days in The Suicide Commandos, the cult Minneapolis punk outfit who paved the way for the likes of The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum in the late 70s, but when it's played as enthusiastically as this I defy anyone not to savour his efforts. As the old adage goes "if it ain't broke..." and I for one would be a very happy man if I ever stumbled on an artist of Steve Almaas calibre in any bar or club across America, a far more likely scenario than finding their like here in the UK.
Neither the George Usher Group nor Steve Almaas are going to win any prizes for originality but I'll be filing them, new as they are, under reliable old friends in my CD collection.