By: Dennis Cook
Some artists usher in cool breezes and warm feelings. You could play them in a snowstorm and still want to slip on a tank top and flip flops after they got through with you. Put another way, some music makes you feel good, or hell, just a little bit better about the human condition. Slackstring strives for this vibe, and their second album, Lay Back (self-released), shows them growing stronger and more complex as musicians and songwriters on top of their natural buoyancy.
These guys have clearly listened to their share of Bob Marley but this time it sounds like they put "Concrete Jungle" on repeat along with "Could You Be Loved?" There's some resonance between Slackstring and Pacific Ocean flavored folks like Jack Johnson and Donavon Frankenreiter, but they're more vibrant and musically engaged along the lines of a slightly stoned ALO. What's particularly impressive is how they've largely outgrown the sound of their debut, layering in more sinewy electric guitar and a couple ladles of cream into the low end now. They keep growing and refining things around their bright core with each new chapter.
Besides Marley (which they do a credible job channeling on opener "People Look Around") there's echoes of late '70s Jackson Browne and James Taylor, which befits a band from Manhattan Beach in Southern California. The heartfelt "Sunday Jen" could hold its own on radio against anything by Dave Matthews or Matchbox 20, and "Out Of Place" adds a welcome splash of twang. While some verses betray their youth, they possess a real gift for finding lyrical common ground. They write songs that folks can relate to, a shared place where differences matter less than what we share. It's this knack that may one day catapult them into the spotlight. For now, Lay Back is a fine album full of sweet, easy to like music with an increasingly interesting undertow.
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