By Dennis Cook
Mainstream tastes elude me. How can tripe like Nickelback go multi-platinum when there are brilliant populists like Michael Penn and Neal Casal – true torchbearers for The Beatles' legacy – just waiting to brighten speakers? Add AOD's Reid Genauer and Nate Wilson to this list of smart, devilishly melodic tunesmiths. This pair oozes the head-bobbin' ease of '70s Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt on the Assembly's first true studio release, a heart-warmer that'll have you hitting the repeat button with lightning speed.
It's the second or third pass where the true depths of their talents and unbridled verve are revealed in all their sing-along glory. AOD specializes in "soaking in simple pleasures," as they sing on "Whistle Clock," a bell-bottom shuffler of the first order. Combining the sturdy workmanship of The Band with a greater sweet tooth for pop hooks, they move with the grace of a hawk in a good wind – every part, every instrumental break, every bridge and rib-stickin' chorus right where it needs to be.
Their Cripple Creek twang is powered by serious rock muscle, especially the sharply etched guitar of Adam Terrell, one of the most unsung six-stringers out there. Throughout Recollection, he stirs up the rough, beautiful spirit of White Album-era Beatles, alternating between his inner George, John and Paul.
Genauer's voice has always been a natural fit for radio, kin to Todd Rundgren and Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook. This time there's even more to like, especially a slow rolling power akin to Kenny Loggins or Gerry Rafferty that bursts out on the choruses. And keyboardist Wilson's pipes aren't too shabby either - his warm singing playing Bobby Whitlock to Genauer's Clapton-esque passions in a winning update of the great Derek and the Dominoes dynamic.
You're a stronger man than me if you can get past opener "Grand Design" without needing to immediately hear it again. Maybe twice. "Zero To The Skin" is a small journey, twisting in all the right ways. "Telling Sue" is so flexible it could be vintage Chris Isaak OR David Alan Coe. "The Honest Hour" is a lovely dying bed hymn for non-churchgoers. "Bootlegger's Advice" would be a BIG hit if it were sung by that "All Jacked Up" chick (Gretchen Wilson). In fact, AOD should have a music agent pounding the pavement in Nashville selling these jewels to any hat act and CMT-rump shaker that'll buy. Not only would it brighten up the grim AOR-country landscape considerably, it would give the Assembly boys some of the gold toilet, private jet money they so richly deserve.
There's so much to like here and virtually nothing not to. Sure, if your tastes don't run towards the pop end of the spectrum this might not initially grab you. But, give it a little time and the integrity, skill, and heart behind this music will surely impress most music lovers.
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