Levers and Pulleys
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by T.J. Simon
Magnolia Summer is a St. Louis-based, alt-country group that takes a mellow and poetic approach to the genre rather than hail from its honky-tonk, neo-traditional wing. On its debut Levers and Pulleys, Chris Grabau serves as singer, songwriter, and guitarist on all 12 of the tracks. His ballad-heavy songs sound like the music of Jay Farrar or Peter Bruntnell, particularly on Summer Man and Pushing the Needle too Hard. When Magnolia Summer picks up the pace on Wish You Well and Standing Still, the sounds of early Wilco (or late Uncle Tupelo, for that matter) come to mind.
Throughout Levers and Pulleys, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and band member Mark Ray creates a lush and expansive vibe, and as a result, Levers And Pulleys is full of interesting instrumental flourishes including an electric sitar on At Least for Now. In addition, Jeremy Brown’s atmospheric violin graces half the tracks. The biggest production complaint is that Grabau’s vocals are way too low in the mix, and oddly enough, the only number in which his voice comes through loud and clear is Figure: Ground, easily the worst song on the album due to his unfortunate choice to whisper the lyrics over an otherwise decent tune.
While there is nothing to dislike strongly about Levers and Pulleys, the album leaves very little to stir any excitement in the listener. Granted, the instrumentation is flawless and Grabau has a good voice, but the songwriting lacks the spark that can leave a lasting impression. Magnolia Summer is undeniably a band with great potential, but the unadventurous lyrics combined with hook-less, but well-played, melodies ultimately adds up to a bit of a snooze.
Of Further Interest...
Levers and Pulleys is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box