>> Chaz Hearne’s latest effort breaks the mold and requires you to listen again.
Folk music is surrounded by a stigma that usually conjures a Bob Dylan look alike sitting on the concrete with his case out, some spare dollars and change rustling against the felt lining. It can also look like a bluegrass scene, banjos and bottle jugs at the ready while the Americana sounds drift into the night. However, there’s something a bit new with nuances that are not easy to overlook in Chaz Hearne’s 'Intelligence is Rising,' especially for those who complained when Bob ditched the dirty old wood for shiny new electric.
The album opens with its title track and envelops the listener right away with a sensational and calming melody juxtaposed by a bouncy, effervescent bassline. Harmonies co-mingle and right away you don’t sense folk, or pop, or rock. You sense that Chaz and his bandmates have found their place. His voice is reminiscent of Shannon Hoon’s and its comforting right away. From this title track the listener is woven in and out of harmonizing melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. By the third track, "Montana," you’ve forgotten exactly what you’re listening to and are starting to be transported away. That’s when the strings kick in at that exact moment. The first three songs blend into on another and if it wasn’t for the slight pause in Soundcloud in between songs you would never notice. This album begs to be on vinyl if not for that reason, then for the warming sound that comes from it.
Production on Chaz’s vocals have extremely heavy reverb on them at times. This is most apparent on "Under the Falls." The heavy reverb is on lead vocals and the harmonizing female vocalist. Both voices have a nice round tone and don’t necessarily need all that reverb dampening the sound. There’s a rolling piano on that very same track that is beautifully played and it’s washed out behind the vocals. It sounds like there’s a pattern of reverberated vocals throughout the album. While it creates a uniform sound throughout, it occasionally distracts, even if it does work well first with the picking and then the horns in "Now We March."
What could be the best track on the album, "Holy Moly," has an early breakdown in it that slows the beat to a stop before it regroups and brings you back to the groove. This song has every potential to be played on regular rotation. But it could be possible that it is skipped over just for that early breakdown. While it doesn’t bother every listener, it is an early distraction just when you’re getting into the groove.
There are some very talented musicians on this album and Chaz is an excellent song writer. The album is short and sweet with a good feel throughout, especially the first three songs as they blend together and set the tone right away. There are good grooves, lyrics, and licks interwoven with peppy basslines in every song and the horns and piano add umami. It’s listed as folk music but don’t let that throw you off if you aren’t normally a fan of folk. If you are a fan but are expecting a single guitar and raspy voice then you will be pretty surprised to hear how orchestral this album really is, a mark of good musicians turning into great ones. Expect good things to come from Chaz Hearne and the rest of his bandmates. <<