Last Charge of the Lighthorse Nine Kinds of Happy
Last Charge of the Lighthorse isn’t a new band. The musicians have been forging a unique legacy since emerging on the scene in 2005 with their flagship recording Getaway Car. Since then they have been busy refining their chops with plenty of live shows, and releasing a second disc, Fractures in 2008. Masterminded by guitarist/lyricist/vocalist Jean-Paul Vest, the unit is rounded out by lead guitarist Bob Stander, drummer Shawn Murray and bassist Pemberton Roach. On the group’s third album, Nine Kinds of Happy, the musicians engage in a collaborative, meditative jam session which updates the country n’ blues sounds of yore into an exciting, locked on boogie.
A lot of artists have trouble making albums that flow, instead cobbling together a collection of disconnected songs. Flow isn’t a problem with these compositions. “This is where” relishes harmony, unison and progression. Vest’s powerful, quavering voice embodies the desert; vast, open and mystical as he devises rustic imagery, “Walk me down your dirt road, past the neighbor’s fruit trees, tell me all of your plans and dream, the wilder the better,” he muses over a rugged, lively backbeat. Singer Pam Aronoff along with the rest of the band covers Jean-Paul with expansive, harmonic back-ups as the rising tide of guitar rock reaches numerous apexes both scenic and sonic.
Not content to keep mood and mode singular, the majority of the album delves into inviting, melodic recesses buried deep within the mind. It’s not “soft rock” or adult contemporary fare; on the contrary the tuneful, somber tracks shake and shimmy with a gravelly, Earthy vibration. Take for example, “Anyone Else,” which could easily have turned out like any other love song. It doesn’t turn out that because the playing is authentic, real and hairy around the neck. The alternating lead/slide guitar melodies spread atop a steady, roving percussiveness makes the song a must-play during a night-time drive when the mind and spirit are running wild and free in the playful paranoia of imagination. It’s hard to explain just how tightly tethered the music is to the glory days when songwriting involved actual instrumentation and not computers. This isn’t simply a “roots rock” rehash, but the roots themselves. The very marrow of the sound if you will.
Last Charge of the Lighthorse make the magic seem effortless, breezing their way through the guitar-oriented, soul-caressing sweet stuff like, “All of my Days” and “The Less Said, The Better,” heading right into the maw of the maelstrom on arena ready, hot-blooded rocker, “Spoken” and finding the golden chalice of light/heavy tinges on the triumphant, “Glaciers.” They never stop to waste time, and the production textures leave no player lost in a bad mix. If you would have told me this record came out thirty or more years ago, I wouldn’t have been surprised. They pull all of this off without sounding retro for retro’s sake. It feels real and from the heart.
Nine Kinds of Happy should appeal to many fans out there. I could see everyone from Neil Young worshippers to the diehards that support the often overlooked The Brandos getting into this album. Whether you are 16 years old or 60, there is a very good chance you will be able to appreciate the work done by Last Charge of the Lighthorse.
– Monty Zike