(This review originally
appeared in the February, 2006 issue of the San Diego Troubadourwww.sandiegotroubadour.com)
by Simeon Flick
This music drifts in like
a nag champa haze over the Appalachian range, leaving a rarified mist
of joi de vivre in its wake. The Grams start with a compelling admixture
of east-meets-west aesthetics; then they add superlative old-school songwriting
and vocal harmonies, and pound in the final nail with a prodigious lineup
of multifaceted musicians.
Chuck Schiele (vocals, guitar, and chief songwriter) has corralled ten
songs that combine old-world eastern sounds and western musical forms
into an aurally inspiring pastiche of intermingling cultures and textures.
‘Sixteen Seconds’, ‘Joujouka’ and ‘21g’
practically throb with Indian and Asian modality and groove as exotic
percussions blend together with an often alternately tuned guitar, dobro,
e-bow, occasional bass and violin. ‘Crabbuckitt’ blows it
wide open with Cajun rhythmic attack and a group-sung chorus punctuated
by Schiele’s animated yelps, which help cultivate a spontaneous
vibe on other songs as well. ‘You’ might initially seem like
just another love song, but you’ll be amazed at how this tune actually
makes you feel like you’re in love. And the acoustic folk-pop melodies
of ‘Secret’, ‘Perfect World’ and ‘Poor Little
Rich Girl’ will stay in your head for days.
The husband/wife team of Craig Yerkes (lead guitars, vocals) and Elise
Ohki (violin, vocals) put the meat on these songs’ bones. When not
trading virtuosic leads and filling space with sublime melodies on their
respective instruments, they’re adding their vocals to Schiele’s
for tight two and three-part harmonies. Yerkes’s leads are crisp
and wonderfully restrained; the dobro on ‘Joujouka’ is akin
to the outstandingly nuanced, sitar-esque solo on Steely Dan’s ‘Do
It Again’. And Yerkes’s lucid tenor is the yin to Schiele’s
raw yang, especially during his lead vocal turn on ‘Poor Little
Although some songs beg further instrumentation, The Grams still managed
to strike a good balance between embellishment and restraint with the
help of co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Berkeley, whose percussion
prowess did unobtrusive service to the music.
The Grams, whether they’re pumping you up or chilling you out, will
leave you with no doubt that they have made a life-affirming acoustic
record worthy of your attention.
Get uplifted soon at http://TheGrams.net/, cdbaby.com, Tower Records,
and at the official CD release party in March.