Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reviews:: Foundation Chimborazo

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Sometimes the Internet is a great, great thing. Back in 2001, I grabbed a sampler from Fueled By Ramen – my friend’s band was on the label and I was all about pop-punk at the time - and even with all the catchy three cord riffs, the song that burned into my brain was the stripped down, folk punk track from Ann Beretta front man Rob Huddleston.

You see, back then not every punk band was adding Billy Bragg influenced, Springsteen/Mellencamp fused acoustic tracks to their discs so the stripped down, working class America vibe the song gave off fueled many drunken sing alongs in our old house. At the time, I doubt I would have said I’d be listening to jams like Lost Along the Way , his Waits cover (Old Shoes) or Eye for an Eye in 2009, but even this summer as my wife and I drove through small towns on our coast-to-coast trip, Rob’s voice often sound tracked the days.

So I have to admit, it was a terrific surprise to get an email from Rob, complete with download code and the chance to be the one of the first people to hear his new work from start to finish. It seems that Foundation is back in full swing, and he’s getting ready to release a new record, Chimborazo on Paper or Plastick records. Over the last couple of years, a few tracks have surfaced – either via vinyl or just leaking on the net – so I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked by the thickness of his new sound, but Foundation has evolved into something bigger. At the core, Chimborazo is still Rob and his trusty acoustic, but with help from his friends the songs are much denser affairs.

The opener, Begging to Bleed is filled with electric guitar, pedal steel, banjo and strings, but somehow even with all those layers, the honesty of the song is maintained and comes off more like a porch jam session that a meticulously arranged number. The taut snare that echoes on Tonight Little Girl (You're Mine) contrasts the swirling fiddle and female harmonies, but you can see Huddleston working out the song with nothing more than acoustic, a couple of beer and over time, his friends just start singing along and picking up their instruments.

Huddleston’s energy level and influences have obviously shifted. He’s much happier sitting down than jumping around and tracks like Roses Over Me and Tonight I'm Gone lean even harder on more traditional country, but he’s able to pull it off. He and his band make bold choices; guitar solos and fiddle dominated tracks (Nightingales) might shock the listener on first pass, but the overwhelming sense of nostalgia he creates makes to not love the songs. I Feel Fine triggers your teenage rebellion and the drive it like you stole it anthem is one you keep turning louder and louder.

Even with all of the new instrumentation, the songs still hold true to what made the debut so great. Until I is the most stripped down affair on the record and When April Smiles is infectious in its simplicity (even when the big guitar solo and banjo show up). Huddleston even peaks the energy on the record with a gentle surge and oohs and ahhhs of Back Then, but the most familiar is the beautiful closer, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. The piano and Stella Maxwell’s harmonies really channel the melody of Lost Along the Way and really finish the record on a soaring high.

While the songs are undoubtedly Rob's, he lets his friends add their own touches and that freedom is what really gives Chimborazo it's strength. It's a collection of songs that friends play on a back porch or after the bar closes. It's also the type of music you hold tight, like the memories that surface every time the beers come out.

For anyone lucky to enough to be in Richmond, VA on the 22nd of January I’d suggest heading to Mojos. He will be sharing the stage with Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem and I’d guess after leaving you will want to throw on faded denim, a white tee and call up your friends that you haven’t seen in years.


Posted at 8:45 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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