If you are looking for something outside the mainstream and a sound to help carry the summer of 2014, I invite you to take a swig of Pure Grain and lend your ear to their latest release, Indiana Sun.
I don’t expect you to know about Pure Grain, but it is my job to let you know about them. And what I want you to know about them is that they are talented, soulful, and homegrown as they come. Hailing from Bright, Indiana, Pure Grain consists of Scott Siefferman on lead vocals and guitar and the funk bottom comes from bassist Tony Nasser. The tribal rhythms are laid down by Brian DeBruler and Michelle D’Amico (Brian’s wife) is featured on percussion. Rounding out the lineup on vocals is Courtney D’Amico, sister of Michelle. The family bonds are tight with this group and it is reflected in the sound of Indiana Sun.
Indiana Sun (Sol Records) is peppered with feel good tunes, classic Allman Brothers guitar work, tight percussion, insightful songwriting, and a jam band attitude that can put you at another level. Produced by Bill Halverson (Eric Clapton, Cream, CSNY) and recorded in the band’s studio in Indiana, this album is a spitting image of the passion and soul that makes up Pure Grain.
The album starts with “Lie To Me,” which is one of the more up tempo songs that is complimented with that traditional Allman Brothers guitar sound. When you put a Dickey Betts influenced guitar solo in an a song, you can do no wrong by my standards. “Lie To Me” is a rockin’ acoustic jam, but immediately you can tell that there is some talented musicians that can bring all of their individual influences together for an original sound.
The “feel good” of Indiana Sun lies within “Summer Song.” The song will put you in the right frame of mind and it has the right amount of jam to be considered for your iPod this summer. The carefree outdoor attitude of “Summer Song” could make a late night by the fire more enjoyable, or it might be a good a cruising song for you. Either way, “Summer Song” can easily be worked into your summer vacation. Take a good listen to the percussion as well as the B3 organ played by Bob Kennedy. What makes this song even more fun is that Pure Grain goes from acoustical jam into a little reggae flavor. A nice change which demonstrates the level of talent in this band.
With every album you listen to, of course you are going to have your favorites. “Hurricane” is no exception. When I first heard “Hurricane” it was not what I expected…in a good way. It is hurricane season you know. This bluesy “hurricane warning” in a song churns up those images you see on TV when the media is covering this force of nature. However listen a little closer and “Hurricane” personifies itself into something a little more tangible; as if a reseliant old man in New Orleans is warning you of a hurricane, but deep down he know it is going to take more than hurricane to wipe him, the city and the culture off the map. You will dig “Hurricane” even more when you find out that it was recorded by the great Levon Helm, on his American Son album in 1980. A year later, Leon Everette recorded and it charted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles. Why did I tell you about Levon and Leon? Because Pure Grain’s version of “Hurricane” is different than Leon and Levon, and I feel like they capture the true spirit of the song as opposed to the previous versions. I applaude the individual who brought this to the album. Certainly my favorite song on Indiana Sun.
One thing I have enjoyed about Pure Grain is their ability to mesh funky music with good country fun (and if you know me then that shouldn’t come as a shock to you). They combine the elements of funky and country with an up tempo ditty called “Back in the Woods.” Oh, the lyrics are country, the music is funky, but somehow the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd creeps up on you and this righteous jams comes to an apex with the guitar solo. There are some special guests on this track. I’ll let you figure it out!
Indiana Sun has what I like to call (wrestling term here) a “cool down” period. Pure Grain has jammed it out pretty good, took you through a “Hurricane” and “Back in the Woods” but it is time to slow down just a tad with “New Dawn.” It is time for the ladies to shine as Courtney D’Amico takes the lead and handles harmonies as sister Michelle implements percussion on “New Dawn” (a Sol Sisters song…ha). Now when I critique albums or songs, I try to throw out my personal taste and try to review with an open mind. What helps me make that judgement is if I could take that song and put it into a movie. Would it work? Can I see that in my mind? Would that song appeal to the audience? With “New Dawn,” absolutely I can put that into a movie as “break-up” song. The lyrics are obvious to you and me but most importantly, the lyrics are meaningful to the writer and the people involved. The subject matter is reality and Pure Grain makes a soundtrack for that reality with “New Dawn.”
“My Addictions,” “Long Time Comin” and “Perfect Time” continues that cool-down period, but at this point you have realized that this album has taken on a different theme as a more reflective Pure Grain has emerged. Lyrically, you may relate to all the themes that Pure Grain has explored, and that is a credit to their songwriting as they may have tapped something deep in your emotions. “Perfect Time” gives a subtle hint to a little Grateful Dead guitar vibe and it works.
I’m not going to lie. I am huge fan of the guitar action in all of these songs. It might be those obsessive ears of mine for anything similar to an Allman Brothers/Southern Rock sound, but to me, that is good stuff.
The final two tracks on Indiana Sun go in correspondence with the previous four songs, “The Blessing” and “Higher Ground.” All of these songs work together as if a story has been told about a broken relationship. However, a positive and uplifting message comes within the final two songs. The conclusion if you will. “The Blessing” gives off a Southern Rock ballad feel to it as the guitar solo is interwoven with the B3 organ which I dig. With “Higher Ground” Pure Grain’s songwriting comes full circle as they have ushered in a new attitude and mindset with the relationships they write about.
The lineup of Pure Grain has changed throughout the last few years, but one thing has remained constant. That constant is Pure Grain’s ability to conjure up a big sound that incorporates characteristics of different genres of music, whether it be funk, country, rock or soul. And that big sound of all that wonderful music has provided the foundation for Pure Grain. A sound unilke anything else out today. And Indiana Sun will prove how much talent is behind that sound!