Latest addition to the ever impressive Clubhouse Records roster is North Californian Don Gallardo whose besuited dapper appearance on the cover of Hickory belies the rustic feel to much of the album. A resident of Nashville for the past eight years Gallardo has his own band How Far West who accompany him here along with guest appearances from Mickey Raphael, Rob Ickes, Randall Bramblett, Bobby Clarke, and Guthrie Trapp who between them can boast of playing with some of the cream of Americana.
Gallardo is yet another artist who is tapping into the seventies sound although at times he is tempted into leaving the hills and cruising the streets with his music dipping into FM territory, late night sax and Hammond organ or electric piano creating the atmosphere. Midnight Sounds epitomises this, starting off like a Wilco song before the saxophone comes in, a touch too silky for me. When The World Wakes Up is more successful with pedal steel replacing the sax and the song sounding not a million miles removed from the likes of the Wynntown Marshals. Back in the country air the loose limbed barrelhouse piano romp of Ophelia, We Cry (Ode To Levon Helm) is more surefooted ( and another song where Gallardo sounds like Jeff Tweedy singing) and the carefree ambience is revisited on Will We Ever Get It Right with the piano rolling and fiddle sawing away. However it’s the rarefied heights of clear country air that offers the best moments here. Down In The Valley is a mandolin rippled hymn to the simple life. Diamond & Gold is a sunlit romp with sparkling Dobro while Carousel benefits immensely from Raphael’s harmonica playing. The North Dakota Blues is a finely paced outlaw ballad in the vein of John Phillips’ Me And My Uncle with Gallardo painting a vivid picture and the band swaying and swaying away brilliantly. The album closes with what might be the best song here, Pearls. Drawing deep from the tradition of southern country soul with weeping pedal steel and solemn organ it recalls The Stones in the grip of Gram Parsons and Muscle Shoals, a magnificent song.