Smokin' Granny - "Tarth Shooke"
(Metaphoric Music Productions 2001, mmp149-3001)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
North Carolina based instrumental powerhouse Smokin' Granny returns with the follow up to 1999's Sirius Matter. And it comes as no surprise to me that this is their hottest set to date. In many ways calmer, lower volume, and more ambient than their previous releases, Tarth Shooke also includes some of the most intricately structured compositions the Grannies has come up with yet. The classic Smokin' Granny sound is ever-present. But while the music is still intense, it's also more laid back. It's powerful and even rocking, but sounds more carefully composed. The band still consists of Brian Preston on basses, Todd Barbee on saxophones and midi wind controller, Jeffrey Damon Lindsey on drums, David Oskardnay on acoustic guitar, and Steve Hatch on electric guitar, now elevated to full member since guesting on Sirius Matter.
Smokin' Granny's music consists of instrumental progressive rock that combines jazz and rock influences to produce a sound that is often recognizably their own. Dual electric and acoustic guitars give the music a trippy jazz edge while Todd Barbee's ultra sonic saxophones and midi wind controller honk, wail, and moan in that beautifully distinct style I've grown to love. The band is all over the place shifting pace and thematic gears continually but seamlessly. This is the kind of stuff that will make fans of complex but inventive prog rock drool. LOTS happening, but not over the top. Some of the standout tracks include "Far Places", on which a gorgeous acoustic and electric guitar combination leads the band on a slow voyage given an atmospheric lift by the wind controller acting in its keyboard role. You have to listen closely to "Assembler" to hear all the subtle but intricate instrumental bits. It's easy to get focused on that looooow deep bass as if it were some kind of mantra. On "Tunnels" Barbee's sax and/or controller goes into deep space, the song as a whole sounding like something from an early Gong album. That bass is hypnotic. "Fuma Sin Fuego" has a Shadowfax sound, but with the distinct Smokin' Granny personality. "Tethered Sky... Skewed Wisdom" has a sound that blends a dash of Canterbury with a dose of King Crimson, the wailing Frippoid guitar and potent percussives creating a pounding and somewhat ethereal atmosphere that communicates raw power, meditative calm, and a cool groove. And speaking of a groove, "Virgin Flight Of The Mumbliepies" is a get-down-funky fusion excursion with a strong psychedelic edge in parts. Dig that cool wah'd guitar and kick ass rhythm section.
Smokin' Granny is one of the few bands I've reviewed over the years that I've had the opportunity to see perform live several times, and in live performance they've shined each time. Highly recommended to fans of instrumental progressive rock. Space fans who take the plunge will find much to enjoy as well.
For more information you can email Smokin' Granny at email@example.com.
Visit their web site at: http://meta4ik.home.mindspring.com/smokingranny.
Contact via snail mail c/o Metaphoric Music Productions; PO Box 3042; Durham, NC 27715.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz