There must be something in the water in Athens, Georgia. While it’s a pretty big town, it’s no metropolis, and yet it has produced a string of legendary bands. Meanwhile my college town, Ann Arbor, is about twice as large and yet all we have to show for forty years of trying are Bob Seger and Taproot. Athens’ own Soundtrack Mind won’t make anyone forget the B-52’s, but they have made a strong impression locally, garnering raves as “Athens’ best pop band” (a statement which says lots about the contemporary music scene, in which hip-hop on one hand and hard rock on the other have squeezed the middle so that artists as diverse as Christina Aguilera and Weezer are both considered “pop”; twenty years ago Soundtrack Mind would have clearly been considered country-rock.).
Soundtrack Mind are a guitar-drums-bass trio that cook up sprightly rhythms with gleeful melodies and often brilliant lead guitar work. My favorite parts from Rusty Bridgers include the Bernie Leadon-style “Town” with a glittering solo and the furious acoustic strumming of “Clear My Name.” Whoever contributes the banjo to “Lonely Tonight” deserves a special award for lifting the track to another level. The rhythm section of drummer Bryan Mullis and bassist Jonathon Potter stride confidently through the songs, often pushing the beat (emphasizing the rock end of country-rock) but never crowding the guitar or melody.
Potter’s vocal stylings have an Appalachian nasality that cuts through the mix, but he can generate a bit of friction when it’s appropriate, like “Clear My Name.” One the best things about the band are the gloriously fruity harmonies that do a lot to relieve the tedium of the slower songs. Coming straight out of an accordion solo, the barbershop harmonies of “Lonely Tonight” are so corny, but so sincere, that it puts a smile on my face every time.
Plastic Dreams is a thoroughly pleasurable album, with lots of terrific hooks and a listener-friendly presentation. Surf on over to their web site and order a copy. And ask them to send a case of that Athens water our way.
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