By: Dennis Cook
In terms of classic songcraft and upper tier musicianship, it's tough to beat Assembly of Dust. Ably lead by singer-guitarist-composer Reid Genauer, the group's third studio effort, Some Assembly Required (released July 21 on Missing Piece/Rock Ridge Music) stands the greatest shot yet of busting this jam-adored cult act into the mainstream spotlight. The production is modern radio thick, the contemporary notion of what "rock" sounds like filtering into the band's more natural old school leanings, and each cut features a guest turn from a gifted fellow traveler or two.
While this latter move can feel like a stunt in lesser hands, it pretty much works from stem to stern here, where the skyward ache of Genauer's pipes swoops and turns with the ageless, authoritative glide of Richie Havens on typically philosophizing opener "All That I Am Now," or the irresistible shuffle of "Cold Coffee," a cool morning twanger where Genauer sings with smoky depth and David Grisman's mandolin provides golden sunlight busting through the gray. While guest star packed affairs often feel random, Assembly takes a considered approach to integrating others into their thing, choosing each for their specific talents, like say the oceanic low end oomph Mike Gordon brings to the shimmering flow of "Arc of the sun" or the dobro sparks Jerry Douglas throws out on the country float of "Leadbelly."
As said, where past releases have pitched their tent closer to the Woodstock days of The Band or the '70s Cali country rock heyday, Assembly resonates on a wavelength closer to Cracker, Barenaked Ladies and glossy mainstays like Sheryl Crow or even Bon Jovi ("High Brow" has all the earmarks of a Jovi hit), none of which should imply that the songs have anything to do with these folks. Genauer's pen remains a steady, shining beacon in a frothy sea but he's managed to encase his tunes in settings that stand a fighting chance of moving beyond the jam clubhouse and onto mainstream airwaves, where they can only do the industry some solid good. It's not hard to imagine the same millions who shell out bucks for Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz spilling coin for the Keller collaboration "Second Song" or the acoustic-tinged skip of "Light Blue Lover," where Grace Potter and Tony Rice help AOD create the greatest James Taylor tune not by Sweet Baby James.
In more than one way, Assembly offers cred in a variety of communities, with nods to serious jazz heads with John Scofield, the folk stratosphere with Grisman, Rice, Douglas and Bela Fleck, and the jam world with Potter, Williams, moe's Al Schnier and David Crosby/Phil Lesh foil Jeff Pevar. But it's the booklet inscription from Black Flag guitarist and highly copacetic jamband enthusiast Greg Ginn that perhaps adds the most new critical heft: "You may as well just glue this CD into the player for the next year or so…" Assembly of Dust makes music of vastly wide appeal and the lofty, giant size production and dreamy assortment of collaborators on Some Assembly Required places them in their best position yet for wider discovery. Outside of the palpable absence of former keyboardist Nate Wilson, Assembly is a pretty perfect piece of beautifully turned rock 'n' roll. The smarter programmers at classic rock stations, CMT, VH1 and late night talk shows would be well advised to jump on this one so they can brag when the dumber followers figure it out down the line. Well done, again, sirs.
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