And Southern Star
****and1/2 out of *****
For her sophomore release, And Southern Star, Mikaela Davis has broadened her sound and scope; embracing weirdness while staying centered on seductive vocals and satisfying songs, crafting an exceptionally stout listening experience.
The album certainly has an evolution to it, just compare and contrast the opening "Cinderella" with closer "Leave It Alone". The opening effort is an easy grooving number led by Davis' harp that tells a story of broken down love in Americana tradition with weepy pedal steel and strong vocals. The closing effort starts in that fashion, lulling you in before taking launching off to excellently jammed out guitar riffs and synths before crashing into the digital abyss, only to rise back up like a modern day Velvet Underground smoker with a revved up tweaked out finale.
Those two sides of the same coin show Davis' breathe and depth as an artist as she and her bandmates, Davis (harp/vocals), Alex Coté (drums), Cian McCarthy (guitars/vocals), Shane McCarthy (bass/vocals) and Kurt Johnson (steel guitar) present a strong folk rock base, but expertly get loose and way out there when needed.
The multiple strings add a unique dimension to the groups sound as harp, acoustic/electric/pedal steel guitars all intertwine winningly, most notably on the upbeat country galloping of "Home In The Country" and the slower ballad, "One of These Days" which adds a deep bass layer to the bottom of the goodness. The poppy offering of "Promise" recalls a Fleetwood Mac vibe while "The Pearl" is the most stripped down for Davis' vocals and harp to shine through.
"Saturday Morning" floats on a softer, jazzier side of things before swelling while a piano intro morphs into some really cool distorted guitar work that sounds like a mix between synths and horns, which may all be in play as well. This sense of adventure in the music really comes alive at the close of And Southern Star as "Don't Stop Now" takes political activism lyrics and pairs them with a swaggering rock vibe, strong drums, a great guitar solo and even flute work.
A dynamite offering from all involved, Mikaela Davis And Southern Star solidifies Davis as a star in the jamband world and beyond.