Assembly of Dust
The Honest Hour
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2004, Volume 11, #10
Written by John Metzger
Despite the grassroots success of the jam band community as a whole, its collective mainstream aspirations largely remain unfulfilled as most media outlets continue to ignore a vast majority of what happens within the genre. Even the teens and college students who skitter from show to show seem to be more in search of a friendly atmospheric buzz than a moving musical experience, although the notion that the latter even exists among the tirelessly self-indulgent mediocrity put forth by the bar bands toiling on the scene’s touring circuit is certainly a question for debate. Indeed, the large-scale, national successes that have come to fruition since the music segment’s categorical definition was assigned all have been built around pure marketing muscle. The most notable of these, of course, is the Bonnaroo Festival, but even its organizers take the term "jam band" so loosely as to make it utterly meaningless while piling on a litany of classic rock bands that were better serving the market long before the classification even came into existence. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, the recent trend among frontmen from the more folk-inclined ensembles to strip away the improvisational orgy in an attempt to reveal something deeper. In essence, they are trying to bring legitimacy to the insularly incestuous coterie of ganja-smokers by stepping into the realm of singers and songwriters, and for what it’s worth, it’s good that they are moving beyond the mindless meandering of their main projects, although it would be better still if they actually had something to contribute.
In the case of Reid Genauer, former leader of Strangefolk, the point is somewhat foggier. Assembly of Dust, his latest ensemble, is filled with jam band veterans — drummer Andy Herrick was snatched from Moon Boot Lover; Nate Wilson was plucked from Percy Hill; guitarist Adam Terrell previously performed with Groovechild; and bass player John Leccese spent time with both of the latter two ensembles — and after Genauer’s song-focused debut flat-lined and failed to excite even Strangefolk fans, he turned to that typical jam band staple, the live album, for his sophomore effort. Introducing nine new songs that span a collective 60 minutes, The Honest Hour feeds Genauer’s soulful, folk-rock tunes back into the improvisational mill where they are brutally stretched out of shape by a series of meandering piano interludes, guitar solos, and vocal exchanges. Speculator fares the worst, reaching an exhausting length of 11 minutes, and while it clearly strives for Bruce Hornsby’s brand of organic jazz-pop, it falls far short of matching his gracefulness. Elsewhere, Honey Creeper woefully struggles to wrap a Jimi Hendrix-influenced guitar riff around a David Crosby-style melody, and Paul Henry is so light and airy that it dips into a nightmarish hell where Christopher Cross serves as the frontman for Spyro Gyra. For the record, Genauer has a better sense of melody than most musicians with his background, and in the process of crafting his own material, he frequently draws from the likes of Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, and a whole host of early ’70s folk-pop artists. Yet, the end product is bereft of the type of resonance that has made his heroes’ music endure for more than 30 years, and as a result, The Honest Hour sounds exactly like a cover band that decided to pen its own songs long before it was ready.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box