This is one for the summer…
Released on 22 April 2017 and reviewed by Ian Savage
Has there been a fire-sale of fiddles and lap-steel guitars while I wasn’t watching? Probably total coincidence, but of the last five albums to pass through this reviewer’s inbox, four have had the words ‘Americana’, ‘country’ or ‘folk’ in the description somewhere. So, following on from Greg Graffin’s disappointing C&W outing last month (review here), and more satisfying offerings from Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton, we now have Seafoam Green’s ‘Americana-psych-folk’ debut Topanga Mansion for MR’s delectation.
The result of a chance meeting in Nashville way back in 2011 between Dublin folk veteran Dave O’Grady and The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson, the album was written in Topanga, California. Robinson’s association has undoubtedly helped to raise Seafoam Green’s profile, but even with him as co-writer and producer this still comes across as being largely O’Grady’s show.
Toganga Mansion pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. Kicking off with tinkling piano, gliding slide guitar and fingerpicked acoustic, it’s largely about laid-back tempos and soaring soulful choruses with few of the electrified bar-room jam-outs that fans of the Black Crowes might expect.
Sure, there’s a splash of southern rock and a helping of gospel in there (‘Down The River’, ‘Lonely Lou’) but in the main this is well-crafted folk with influences from both sides of the Atlantic. The ‘psych’ element crops up in the occasional extended instrumental middle section (‘Far From Golden’, ‘Sister’) where the soloists are allowed to showcase their chops; the primary focus is invariably the incredibly well-recorded acoustic instrumentation though.
If you’re drawn to this by the Rich Robinson connection, you may be surprised – and hopefully pleasantly – by the restraint and tastefulness of the songs on offer here. If you’re more familiar with O’Grady’s work, this certainly won’t disappoint; the opportunity to augment and polish his acoustic-based song-crafting has been firmly grabbed and taken full advantage of.
This is one for the summer, for sure – but in contrast to the top-down freeway cruising invoked by the afore-mentioned Hamilton’s ‘Devil’s In The Detail’, ‘Topanga Mansion’ invites you to long, chilled drinks on the porch with nothing on the to-do list. Well worthwhile.
7.5 out of 10
- Celtic Wanderings
- Down The River
- Lonely Lou
- Royal Call
- Petty Tyrants
- Far From Golden
- No Wasted Words