If there's one thing the Moondoggies do well, it's slappin' da bass. But that's an irrelevant statement, because the Moondoggies do everything well. What I mean to say is that beneath tunes tilled by seriously rootsy guitar and chest-tearing folk vocals is a saucy slate of bass grooves thickening the meal served on "Tidelands."
Like the Seattle band's 2008 debut, "Don't Be A Stranger," "Tidelands" is a gratifying balance of garage folk roof-rippers and easy backwoods ballads. "We Can't All Be Blessed" follows up the down-home gospel sensibilities of "Stranger's" opener, "Ain't No Lord," while the title-track parallels the chordal aesthetic of "Changing."
The Moondoggies' sound is slightly refined for their second album, as much as it could possibly be for a debut that didn't really warrant improvement. A little of the grit is gone in favor of smoother, meaty recordings, and the drums seem more understated in general. That's not to say they aren't present, because they are very much, but you don't hear so many cymbal crashes competing with the vocals, making "Tidelands" a more accessible effort than "Stranger."
However, unless you're really listening for differences, any Moondoggies fan would be hard-pressed to decipher such subtleties. All in all, "Tidelands" delivers more of what we already love: an earthy array of vintage treasures.
Album opener "It's a Shame, It's a Pity" is a thumping rocker building its way up to a towering climax, and transitioning seamlessly to the following track, "Tidelands." The record continues its triumphant return with a soulful veneer on "What Took So Long," easily one of the Moondoggies' most affecting songs to date.
True-to-form, the band offers a couple of light, acoustic pieces. "Empress of the North" creates a restful halfway point and "A Lot of People on My Mind," boasting a Muddy Waters wail atop gentle guitar, is a perfect album ender. The real winner here, though, is "Down the Well," a dense and moody stunner that feels like a shot to the heart, but one you're happy to take.
Abby Holmes is not only editor Amber Valentine's best lady but is also our first RFC Guest Blogger and quite the lovely (not to mention attractive) woman! You can read her wordplay on a regular basis at Wenatchee World's Give It A Spin and her personal blog Another Festive Compromise. Be sure to check out her first guest review of Archie Powell & The Exports debut.
Catch a performance by the band at Schubas Tavern 8 p.m. Nov. 10. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.