An American artist domiciled in Austria, Chuck Lemonds is a new name to Blabber’n’Smoke although The Rivers Call is apparently his ninth album. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Lemonds has an interesting back history, detailed on his website, which anticipates a dyed in the wool old time feel to his music but instead he inhabits a world where poetry and lyricism marry fluid and supple instrumentation with a light, airy, almost Joni Mitchell feel. Billowing bass lines, rippling acoustic guitars with occasional electric solos, heavenly harmonies and meandering melodies feature throughout as Lemonds’ laid back and unhurried vocals brush against the microphone.
It’s all very reminiscent of an earlier and more innocent age when songwriters were planting the first seeds of post psychedelic American music, examining folk, blues, gospel and country and coming up with a modern indigenous music. So the likes of Neil Young, Ritchie Havens, Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin are all in here along with a smattering of Van Morrison’s sunkissed California days and given the prominence of acoustic double bass (played with some excellence throughout the album by Peter Herbert, veteran of Woody Shaw, Art Farmer and Paul Simon sessions) there’s a fair bet that Lemonds has listened to the numerous recordings featuring the doyen of double bass, Danny Thompson).
The gospel feel is apparent immediately on the opener, Let’s Go Down Stream, a song co written with his late father that oozes the blue eyed soul feel of the early seventies with Mary Gaines taking the place of Claudia Lennear. There’s a Ronnie Lane jaunt to Bringing Mary K Home with mandolin galore while To Bee or Not To Bee (poor pun mind you) features an awesome bowed bass solo introduction that is woody and organic and sets up the bucolic nature of this paean to the humble bumble bee. The title song has some sly lap guitar from Arkadiy Yushin along with some booming bass work and again it recalls the rustic Ronnie Lane skipping down country byways. The Joni Mitchell influence is apparent in The Letter Home, an adaptation of two poets, John Weir and Petra Schaller as the bass burbles and percussion splashes as Lemonds sings a song of regret for lives lost needlessly. There’s some more southern slinking with Gottfried Gferer on National steel guitar on Put A Good Word In For Me, another song that recalls early seventies excursions into swamp blues and a very fine instrumental featuring Lemonds on guitar with just bass and piano that recalls Ry Coder’s film work before Lemonds wraps it up with his solo rendition of Patty Griffin’s Top of the World. Top of the World is a song that has amassed a weight of interpretation through its authors’ and The Dixie Chicks renditions. Here Lemonds lays it down straight with just the right amount of pathos with no need for any other instrumental embroidery. A stark classic to end a fine album.