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Album Review

by Greenhornes

Third Man Records

Review Date
8th February 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Off the back of various members of the band taking on other projects, Cincinnati’s premier rock’n’roll throwbacks The Greenhornes release their fourth album – and first in eight years – **** (aka Four Stars). The album is an excellent showcase of what the band built their name on; tour-de-force vintage rock played with 21st century volume. All of the key references are present; The Kinks, early Rolling Stones, Rubber Soul era Beatles, and many more besides. Perhaps you can find the campy Doors-like Wurlitzer vamps or some Byrds-ian tambourines in there. If the songs weren’t generally good then listening to this album could/would degenerate into a spot-the-influence marathon. While one of two songs scarcely leave an impression and a couple feel like mere sketches, the album’s numerous solid tracks hold your interest through the weaker areas. This is not insipid revivalism at work, but that of three musicians with a genuine love for rock music and the tools at their disposable to craft a loving homage to it.

The first half of the album is crammed with muscular energetic rockers while the B-side often slows the tempo down, giving the band room to play around with their sound a little more. Many of the faster rockers are playful in nature and singer / guitarist Craig Fox plays his riffs with enough sleaze and swagger to encroach on the territory of Oasis or even The White Stripes themselves. Go Tell Henry starts as a mellow jazz arrangement but shifts in tone to a hazy fairytale that would be menacing if didn’t groove as smoothly as it does. From time to time Fox draws from the Mick Jagger guide to ballads giving some tracks like My Sparrow the soul and grit that they demand. Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler continue to prove that they are one of the best rhythm sections in the game, ably handling the variety of moods and timings. Their ‘extracurricular activities’ in recent years has refined them into an even tighter unit and has coaxed them into interesting avenues of sonic exploration. The slow burners sizzle and the big hitters pop wonderfully in their capable hands.

On the whole it must be said that the music is not particularly original, even the band themselves have visited a lot of this territory before, but that doesn’t detract from the excellent performances herein. The Greenhornes manage all of this with a keen ear for what they are aiming for and a maturity in execution that becomes their veteran status. Four Stars can stand on its own legs as a masterful, if a little predictable, pastiche of rock music new and old, warts and all.


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