In summer last year The Magpie Salute released their debut record. All but one of its cuts (and you just know that TMS are the type of people who call songs “cuts”) was recorded live on stage in Woodstock in front of an invited audience. The collection led me to conclude on my review that “The next great jam band takes flight, right here.”
Such a sentiment is still fair enough, but on “High Water I” there is enough light and shade to suggest that the five piece have plenty more to offer.
Indeed, in many ways, this one feels like a debut statement – a proper album, if you will – as if everyone concerned is now ready to put their heart and soul into it, and the opener “Mary The Gypsy” is rather more rock n roll and less mystical than much of the debut.
The abrupt ending to the track heralds something altogether different, though and the title track more or less floats in, on the back of something entirely psychedelic as happy as you like to wander, to meander and to explore. All of those three adjectives you could apply to the band throughout the rest.
“Send Me An Omen” is a timely reminder that three of their number used to be in The Black Crowes, and the singer John Hogg doesn’t half sound like a certain other frontman here.
I don’t want to trot out the Crowes clichés, but Rich Robinson has a guitar sound you could recognise anywhere, and his solo on the piano infused “For The Wind” together with the way the chorus slams like Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, is hardly shying away from his legacy (neither should it, either).
The different shades of the record are perhaps best shown in “Sister Moon” which has a metronomic piano groove and an aching lap steel to sound like the most blue-collar Americana, “Color Blind” , on the other hand, comes on like it is being absent-mindedly strummed on a porch step, but its soul filled, deeply personal anti-racism message brings to mind Lenny Kravitz at his absolute best.
There is time for a spot of big old bluesy brilliance elsewhere on “Take It All”, while “Walk On Water” has something of the Tom Petty about it, albeit with some Byrds-like harmonies, while The Faces would revel in “Hand In Hand”.
If they are the jam band I thought they were then it is more to do with the different styles, rather than the length of the songs. Indeed, these are refreshingly short, meaning that the country flavours of “You Found Me” sound totally at ease.
It is noticeable that musically at least, the second half of the record sounds completely at ease, and the organic nature of the way the band makes its songs is at odds with the foreboding nature of the lyrics – the plaintive line in the chorus of “what about humanity?” accounts for why this album is so warm and welcoming.
“Open Up” belongs in the swampy delta, the feel of the southern air, perhaps, as there is something of New Orleans is here, but in reality it is merely another strand on an album full of different threads.
Not, maybe, the album I expected from them, but it is arguably better than I hoped. It might just be their version of “Exile On Main Street” – and on this evidence who knows what part two has in store? The Magpie Salute are clearly not a band to second guess.