Inner Ear Music Review: Koen Maas
Cosmic American Derelicts released a self-titled record a couple of years back that showed remarkable ability to mix the energy of rock & roll with the spirit of roots music, touched up with some bluesrock here and there. They now return with "Songs from the Homestead" on which they continue their well-balanced roots rocking. From the opener to the closer, this album features 9 strong songs, sometimes a little heavier, sometimes a little more uptempo and sometimes they take the foot off the gas to slow things down a bit.
The opener, Sleepwalker Killer is an uptempo country rocker that immediately gives you the impression of stepping right in the middle of this CD. There's no need to ease you into it or to slowly build up for what's to come. No, the Cosmic American Derelicts are in top form, right from the start. And they continue to go strong with Same Old. This might be the album's top track. The influences from blues & bluegrass have a very prominent role in this fast-paced song that shows the cohesion and musicianship in this band as they all play an important role to lift this song to great heights. And on a more country-influenced radio station I would not see a reason for this song not to be one of the top rotations.
Barbed Wire Bed is slightly more gritty with its nice twang and bluegrass instrumentation. It has a bit of a modern honky tonk sound to it that suits the Derelicts very well. As always their music is performed with passion and straight from the heart. Even though, generally, the roots scene doesn't get the appreciation it deserves anymore, Cosmic American Derelicts have found a way to bridge the old sound with a more modern approach. Bands like this might just embody the revival of the americana, country & roots music all over the world.
On Bedside the band shows a gentler approach which definitely reaches back to old school country & western music. The sophisticated arrangement and absolute top performances build this song up to an impressive whole that might not be something radio will pick up on, but the song will no doubt be embraced by the many fans of the genre. After the impressive Bedside, the Derelicts continue with a song from one of their heroes. Townes Van Zandt, highly underrated himself, wrote a lot of great songs, but one of his very best is this Dollar Bill Blues, which is very tastefully performed by the Cosmic American Derelicts. The band is able to recreate the original feel of the song, yet they still manage to make the song sound more current. Van Zandt's arrangement leaves room to subtly accentuate parts of the song, and the Derelicts play it to near perfection.
We're already halfway through the record but thankfully there's more to come. And with the breezy, and even kinda catchy, Drink You Off My Mind, the band might have a breakthrough single on their hands. The subtle instrumental accents and strong vocals rely on a sound arrangement that features one of the better country songs I have heard in recent years. The song is not necessarily filled with sophisticated or complicated schemes and unnecessary solos. No, it's the honesty and simplicity that the song portrays that impresses.
The country-rocker I Only Steal Things When I'm Drunk is perhaps the funnest song on the album. With a more alternative sound, yet a very balanced arrangement, it manages to energize the mood and the lyrics that are typically country music, make everything just fit. And while you're listening to this song you can't help but think it must make one hell of a live song.
Last Words is another strong song, probably the most 'epic' on the album. It has strong influences from classic rock, though at times it slows down and provides room for a more rootsy sound. The whole song flows back and forth like the tide and shows a lot of creative freedom, free creativity a force that surrounds this excellent band. And unfortunately we've reached the very end of this CD. With Rocktopus we've reached the album closer. And while it's too bad this strong album is coming to an end, the heavier rock sound portrayed on Rocktopus both surprised me and amazed me. The impressive guitar work brings the arrangement alive, while the rhythm instruments provide a very strong base on which this song can flourish. The band brings in a top quality performance and delivers on every single note. The lack of vocals is something I hadn't even noticed the first time I listened to the song, which makes it even more impressive. But with music like this, you don't need vocals. The instruments speak for themselves. This is over 400 seconds of pure musical bliss.
I was already convinced of this band's musical qualities after I heard their first album, but with "Songs from the Homestead" they just proved they were able to get things even more together and bring the quality a couple notches up. Cosmic American Derelicts are a band that should be well-known and with the quality they show in their music it won't take very long until they find their way to a broader audience.