Here’s a little number that almost got ignored, but thankfully found its way into my CD player (yes, I still have one of those). Beachwood Sparks is a California quartet who last recorded in 2002. A decade later, they are making gorgeous folk-rock on that will have you reaching for classic 70s albums by Poco, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead.
Some folks may be familiar with Beachwood Spark’s cover of Sade’s By Your Side that featured in the film Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The band formed out of several other indie groups based in LA in the late 1990s and eventually settled into a line-up of Chris Gunst (guitar & vocals), Brent Rademaker (bass & vocals) Dave Scher (guitar & vocals) and Aaron Sperske (drums)…all of whom are present and accounted for here, along with former Ryan Adams sideman Neal Casal and pedal steel player Dan Horne.
The album opens with a simple, strummed acoustic guitar on Forget The Song, that immediately reminds me of the mellow side of the 1970s. A dreamy voice sings, “It’s time to stop pretending, those days are gone”, although they sound like they are right here thanks to the band’s relaxed folky vibe. The vocal has a Beach Boys quality to it, and it sounds beautiful in this country-rock setting.
The vibe continues on Sparks Fly again, which features Horne’s lovely pedal steel. The tempo speeds up and slows down again, reminding me of Buffalo Springfield’s Broken Arrow.
And so it goes…Mollusk is a smooth, easy-going tune with more pedal steel and harmonies The Eagles would be proud of…and just enough left turns in the arrangement to keep things interesting.
The only variation among the album’s 13 tracks is No Queremos Oro, a brief mariachi-flavoured number that acts as a brief diversion from the band’s usual brand of folk rock.
Sure, the sound is derivative and has been done to death recently, but these guys have come up with a collection of wonderful songs to match the shimmering harmonies and warm, relaxed atmosphere they have created. I found myself coming back to this record over and over again. It just feels good.
Click here to listen to Sparks Fly Again from The Tarnished Gold: