Dave Phelps and the Eclectic Troubadours live up to their name with consistently quirky music that approaches the listener from a variety of different angles, not all of them successful. The most obvious antecedent is the Grateful Dead, particularly the song-oriented era of Workingman's Dead/American Beauty. The album is split down the middle between relatively straightforward pop/rock tunes and more exploratory instrumentals that allow the musicians to stretch out and remove any doubts that they can play.
I'm For You, You're For Me is sweet and breezy with wry lyrics, sharing some DNA with the Dead's "Bertha. "You'll Never... Hear Surf Music Again effectively rides a swirling Midle Eastern vibe that always curiously seems to seep into surf music. It's a pitch-perfect homage that has the added advantage of being a lot of fun. "Life In Vain, however, is a real misstepan attempt at menacing clamor with overwrought lyrics brimming with angst. Phelps sings with urgency, but his spiraling, knotty guitar solo is far more eloquent.
The Eclectic Troubadours are most effective when they're in their instrumental mode. Phelps is not an especially compelling singer and the lyrics detract more than they add to the music. There is no doubt the Troubadours are talented, but in the end their approach is a little too haphazard to be truly successful.
David Phelps: guitar, vocals; Scott Neuman: drums, cymbals; Jim Whitney: string bass;
Michael Belar: keyboards, accordion.
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