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Issue: March 2009

An Americana Stew

Edgehill Ave.
Rambler (Departure Records)

The Hammond B3 organ is the most indispensable of instruments. It instantly adds a level of texture and sacred sensuousness to whatever song uses it, whether it's the lead instrument or just somewhere burbling behind in the rhythm section. It can roar or growl, shake the floorboards or send high tones up to the angels. Think of its use in Booker T. and the MGs "Green Onions" or "Time is Tight." If it had been used in "MacArthur Park," it would've turned that endless tour of purple melodrama into something soulful, maybe even with a finger-snapping groove. And that's a cake we would have gladly brought in from the rain.

So when it's added to some crisp electro-acoustic Americana music as performed by Louisville's Edgehill Avenue, you get Rambler, a slightly souped-up version of the EP the band released in 2007. On Rambler, you get a piping-hot stew of southern rock, blues, folk, and country, served up in generous portions, that kicks you in the pants one song, then buys you a drink on the next.

Rambler starts off with a snarl with the title track, sung in the persona of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and then lightens up in the next track, the romantic (in lyric only) "With These Hands." Things slow down halfway through with the solemn "I'll Be Leaving Now," where the band is joined by background vocalist Leigh Ann Yost, then pick back up with the booka-chicka-booka-chicka, train-driving rhythm of "Just Don't Care Anymore." And just as it begins with a snarling sound, Rambler ends on one as well with "Justified," a short, thought-provoking treatise on genocide and a warning about those with the power to stop it who will feel justified in their actions.

Throughout the work, we get crisp, dead-on-target musicianship from the entire lineup of Edgehill Avenue: vocalist Drew Perkins, lead guitarist Mike McLaughlin, bassist John Poole, drummer Lamont Melson, and the growly organ work from Paul Nevitt.

Americana music is referred to as a catch-all genre: the weathered, raw sound of traditional country shot through with some blues and rock. It's not as cleanly defined as other genres, but that's a good thing. It's as flexible. It's not obligated to lock itself into a box for handy classification. It is, indeed, a stew with ingredients cast off from all the other main dishes, the leftovers from so many ordinary meals. And adding a huge slice of Hammond B3 truly pulls all those ingredients together into something tasty.

It's from that stew that we can enjoy a piece of work like Rambler.

Find out more at www.edgehillave.com.

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