It's a relief (and almost retro nowadays) to see a young, local band relying on good ol' guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums to say what it has to say. But there's some question as to how in tune Smokestack is with the foundations of its chosen genres. When I saw these musicians live, their meandering, trippy dance jams sometimes got a little thin, sounding more like a copy of a copy inspired by Phish instead of the Grateful Dead, for example. On the other hand, their CD's longest number, "Bodhi," weighing in at over eleven minutes, offers various strong improv sections, turning gutsy and frenzied by the end.
My favorite moments on It's Coming Down, however, are when the guys don't take themselves so seriously. "Why Did You Do Me Wrong," sung in group harmony to a Latin-cowboy beat, and "Send My Regards," with its swinging rockabilly feel, beg for carefree dancing.
Everybody in Smokestack writes songs, and everybody sings, too just more evidence that this tight groove ensemble can fire on all cylinders.
Smokestack is at the Blind Pig Thursday, January 30.