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Gary Vogenson: Shot of Hope

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Gary Vogenson: Shot of Hope
If the title of Gary Vogenson's Shot of Hope was not so pertinent to the post-quarantine world, he might well have named it Don't Misunderstand Me Too Quickly. At a quick glance, song choices such as the traditional "The Cuckoo" and Dan Penn and Chip Moman's soul/R&B standard "Do Right Woman" seem predictable. But, juxtaposed as they are with some (overly?) familiar material from the canon of the Grateful Dead among others, this baker's dozen of tracks turns into a mostly provocative blend of songs rendered more potent by tasteful musicianship.

For instance, this to-the-point rendition of one of the (unfortunately) few songs the late Richard Manuel wrote and sang for The Band, "In A Station" (from the deeply mysterious Music From Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)), imparts a personal and intimate air to the proceedings. Proffered as it is without much embellishment, it is thus replete with as much sincerity as sympathy, an apt implicit homage to its author. The opening number here, something cryptically entitled "Barbaric Splendor," does not ignite until the group harmonies at the close, high-flying vocals hearkening to classic country-rockers Poco, while the title tune features singing interludes straight out of the vintage blend of voices in the Mamas and the Papas.

Not every source and influence here is so readily discernible, however. Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love and Understanding" sounds a bit holier than thou rather than tongue-in-cheek....or is it? Easy acoustic or electric guitar strumming cushions dobro, weaving in and out of an arrangement featuring executive producer Jim Pugh's Hammond B3 organ, evoking thoughts of early work by both John Hiatt and Ry Cooder (who, not coincidentally, worked together with the aforementioned Lowe as members of a band called Little Village). This is polished, contemporary rock and roll with history.

In such layered instrumentals, prominently featuring some pedal steel from Dave Zirbel, a bit more conventional than the late Jerry Garcia might play it, those glowing lines nonetheless extend a link to "Ripple;" on the sanctified likes of this cull from the iconic psychedelic warriors' landmark American Beauty (Warner Brothers, 1970); the chorus is appropriately reminiscent of a gospel choir in the midst of church service, its wordless intervals panning across the stereo spectrum to enhance the engrossing quality of the cut.

It is one of the genuinely ingenious moments on Shot of Hope, but not the only one. That said, notwithstanding Gary Vogenson's varied experience touring and recording with Elvin Bishop, The New Riders of The Purple Sage and Norton Buffalo, among others, this album sounds like nothing so much as the work of an artist in search of his own style. It would be to the benefit of this guitarist-vocalist-composer if he sounded less careful than he does on the overly-studied "Lies" and "Don't Tell Me About Love."

Of course, such quibbling becomes virtually moot at the first fleet, rhythmic notes emanating from the take on another staple from the Dead canon. The unself-conscious way the otherwise ever-so-respectful Gary Vogenson twirls off the words to "Friend of the Devil' (its authorship oddly credited solely to Garcia's collaborator and lyricist Robert Hunter), it is as if he has well and truly found his voice.

Track Listing

Barbaric Splendor; Shot of Hope; Powerful Potion; Peace, Love And Understanding; ripple; In A Station; Doing time In Bakersfield; Friend of the Devil, Do Right Woman; The Cuckoo; Don't Tell Me About Love; Lies; Soul of the Wolf.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Gary Vogenson: vocals, dobro, harmonica, mandolin; Russ Gauthier: acoustic guitar, backing vocals, banjo; Dave Zirbel: pedal steel; John McFee: pedal steel; Jim Pugh: Hammond B3, piano, David Kessner: piano; Steve Evans: bass; Kevin Hays: drums; Marin Slim: backing vocals.

Album information

Title: Shot of Hope | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: The Little Village Foundation


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