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Published: 2002/01/23
by Chris Gardner

Open Road – Strangefolk

self-released

Open Road finds Strangefolk
searching for a voice in the wake of Reid Genauer's departure. The Vermont
outfit has reloaded as a quintet, picking up Luke Montgomery on guitars and
vocals and Scott Shdeed on the keys. After working with producer Nile
Rodgers on Great Long While, the band is co-producing with Dan Archer
again. While the signature harmonies and Jon Trafton's slippery lead work
are still in place, the end result is still a bit flat and surprisingly generic.

Open Road sounds like it could have been recorded by any of a dozen
bands.
The songwriting, long a strength of the band, falls flat both musically and
lyrically. The album lacks a hook, and the lyrics fall back on trite
metaphors ("Life is like an escalator, going up and down"). The songs lack
distinct personalities, blending together in a string despite
the fact that Trafton, Montgomery, and bassist Eric Glockler all contribute
multiple tunes each. In searching for a cohesive sound, it seems as though
each has surrendered a bit of their individual personality to the whole, and
the plan backfired.

Still, not all is bad here, which is part of the problem. Trafton's tone is
still buoyant, and his lines are often inspiring. The rhythm section is
still tight, and the keys add a depth and texture that is promising. Luke
Montgomery's voice has a gritty strain that should complement Trafton and
Glockler's smoother styles well, and while "Go to a Show" is lyrically
challenged, the jam proves that the band still has chops. In short, there
is still plenty of talent and promise in this band.

And that is exactly the problem. You can't help but believe Strangefolk is
capable of better work than this.

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