Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Magic Music - Self titled

Magic Music - Self titled 

Magic Music’s original run ended in 1976 before the band even recorded an album. Nearly forty years would pass before the opportunity to do would present itself again to these Colorado based musicians. By that point, the musical world had changed multiple times over and the style that had fallen out of favor by the time of their mid seventies breakup now occupies a comfortable and secure niche in the American songscape. Their debut album Magic Music is a seventeen song release that puts its foot in every style of traditional American music and never loses its balance once. Unlike many other retro performers, Magic Music’s style never seems forced or too studied. These songs seem like a natural and effortless expression of the experiences that go into the songwriting and they show outstanding technique as well. Each of the songs, even the instrumentals, don’t waste a single word or note trying to convey themselves to the audience.

Few songs make that more apparent than the opener. “Bring Down the Morning” is a brilliant modern folk song that’s never too precious or affected; it seems like an intensely sincere accounting of the speaker’s yearning and the poetic touches littering the song give it real added verve. “Bright Sun Bright Rain” pushes much harder against the listener and has an almost rock song like urgency without any of the histrionics. The lilting opening of “The Porcupine Flats Shuffle” shifts tempo slightly as it goes further in the song but it never turns into a full fledged shuffle as the title implies. It tumbles out, instead, with a slightly staggered pulse that’s quite pleasing all the while. The overlapping musical lines opening “Gandy Dancer” coalesce into another quasi-shuffle peppered with tasteful melodic splashes. The vocals are handled in harmony for much of the song with occasional changes and the instrumental breaks are kept relatively brief in comparison to the surrounding songs.  

There’s a gradual growth in the instrumentation of “Carolina Wind”. It begins with an almost skeletal melody and Magic Music shows great patience in developing it for the listeners. “The Flatbush Jig” is a brief instrumental with a haunting quality that seems to waft into form rather than emerging fully fleshed out. Acoustic guitar is the primary musical mover on “Eldorado Canyon” and lays out a very deliberate melody in the introduction. It shifts into a much more fluid mode for the verses but the understatement remains the same. There’s much more of a solo vocal at work here than the abundance of harmonies heard in other songs and it gives it a different sort of quality. There’s a strong blues influence in the later songs “Country” and “Better Days”, but much like the band does with other styles, they opt for artfully invoking its tropes rather than leaning too heavily on clichés. Much of the men behind these songs emerges through their art and helps all of the songs on this debut sound like no one else could have written or recorded them.  

9 out of 10 stars

Charles Hatton

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