Dear Mr. B: According to the calendar, summers almost over although where I live here in the northeast, its like it never came. The weathers been crappy, I havent been able to get outside much at all this sucks. I know youve helped people in so many ways, Mr. B, but maybe this time Im asking for too much. Is there any way you can bring summer back for me?
With great respect,
Pale in Portland
Dear Pale: Dont you worry about a thing, my friend. It just so happens I opened up a little box of sunshine right here on my desk a few minutes ago and youre the first person Im going to share it with. You want an endless summer, my friend? I have the answer: Finally Almost Ready, the new album by The Ragbirds. Im serious this records so sunny and uplifting, I had the mirror shades on by track two.
You do know The Ragbirds, right? Oh, man, Pale these folks are something else. You want to talk about rhythm devils? Start with Randall Moore, who definitely comes from the same distant world that String Cheeses Michael Travis does (you know: the planet of the 12-limbed-world-percussionist people) and does it all on everything from your standard rock n roll drum kit to groovemakers that you and I cant even pronounce. Add in co-conspirator Tim Dziekan – who appears to have been raised by a tribe of people who do all their communicating with congas – and Dan Hildebrandts big bass backbone (one whose vertebrae bend in all directions) and you have one totally infectious beat monster that takes you round and round the world in one big ol whirl and twirl that knows no fences or labels just smiles and good vibes.
But wait, Pale Im not done: enter T.J. and Erin Zindle, an incredibly gifted brother and sister musical team. T.J. can skank a reggae rhythm with the best of them, rip out a dreamy Steve Kimock-like lead, or pick a fluttering line on the acoustic thats all butterflies and fields of daisies. And sing, too (if hes not busy on the trumpet).
And then theres Erin Zindle. Im not going to do her justice, Pale, but Ill try: combine the vocal tones of a Natalie Merchant (or maybe Tara Nevins of Donna The Buffalo) with the fearlessness of Joni Mitchell and youll have a start on describing her singing abilities. From there, imagine this happy wild woman who is totally one with the violin, mandolin, accordion or piano. (Unless shes playing drums. Sometimes they all play drums. Its that kind of a band.)
Theres a back catalog to dig into, Pale, but it sounds like you need a shot of smiles RIGHT NOW and thats why Im telling you to lay hands to Finally Almost Ready. You get everything mentioned above plus the production talents of Tim Carbone and when you have Tim as ringmaster, the vibe cant help but feel good.
I could talk your ear off about this album, Pale, but times a wastin and you need to be listen to The Ragbirds and not me but just in case you need a little more convincing: Book of Matches gets things going with soaring vocals by Erin and a comfy bed of hand percussion. (Mr. Tim even digs out his violin and joins forces with Erin nice.) Like a little Phish with your world platter? Theres a moment in the solo that closes out The Frame where the totally Page-like piano leads the way up and up and up this spiral of sound, all instruments swirling and weaving in the nicest of ways until they cascade over the peak and softly land in a pool of acoustic guitar sweetness. (Are you grinning yet?)
Whats your cold one of choice, Pale? Not that you need one, but if you lean towards a Red Stripe, dig the wonk-wonka-wonk of T.J.s guitar on Get In or if you prefer a Corona, then squeeze a lime into the title cut and get a little sun on those legs, hippie boy. In the meantime, Getting Dark is a perfect example of the kind of parallel tightropes The Ragbirds walk: Moores percussion is the constant as bass, mando, and both acoustic and electric guitar weave in and out. If one goes down, they all do but The Ragbirds never falter.
I know I mentioned String Cheese earlier; imagine them at their most joyous with mariachi horns! and you have Anywhere. Or dig the sway of The Limits of Me whose verses lead you down a path to a clearing where the violin and guitar dance together. Mmmmm.
The experience ends with Onyame Kokroko, the coolest drum circle you ever sat in on. Its perfect, Pale like a happy parking lot scene after the show except YOU CAN HIT REPEAT and play it all over again.
So there you go guaranteed smiles no matter what the weather is outside, my friend. With Finally Almost Ready, the forecast is always sunny and worldly with no borders and plenty of highs.
Your ol pal,