There's something to be said for the centered and warm sound qualities born of a flugelhorn fronting a bass-less trio. Even when John Raymond ratchets up the intensity on his original compositionsthe choppy title track in five, the circuitous "Follower"there's a sense of sonic evenhandedness reflecting both the instrument's depth of character and the artist's depth of soul. Of course, it helps when you also have players of the caliber of guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan filling out your band.
While Raymond made a splash and had a clear concept of sound right out of the gate on Strength & Song (Strength & Song Records. 2012), he hadn't exactly found himself at that point. He was just another adept trumpeter with promise. Things seemed to really click when he formed this trio, as that led him to gaze on the music in unfeigned fashion. Now, after two releases from Real Feels and four years of collaborative unit-building, he seems more content with what he has to say. The level of sincerity with which his horn sings has risen sharply.
Those looking for flashpoint theatrics best look elsewhere. While Raymond's music manages to impress and imprint on the ears, he's not one to push or use his flugelhorn as a tool of fight or extreme flight. Instead, it largely sings on Paul Simon's "I'd Do It For Your Love," serves as a charming country guide through "En Route," acts as a melodic beacon and protective shield from the surrounding storms during "Be Still, My Soul," and plays the gorgeously unadorned prophet on a bucolic take on Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin." Hekselman and Stranahan, while making their respective thoughts clear throughout, essentially mirror Raymond's thinking. All three men draw from the same cauldron of indie rock intensity on Bon Iver's "Minnesota, WI," for example, and layered group cohesion is paramount to the success of a tweaked version of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill."
This band and this particular album make clear that true power need not come through force. Joy Ride inspires without ever adopting an athletic stance.
Joy Ride; I'd Do It For Your Love; Follower; Minnesota, WI; Be Still, My Soul; Fortress; Solsbury Hill; En Route; The Times They Are A-Changin; Hymn.
John Raymond: flugelhorn; Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Colin Stranahan: drums.