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Published: 2002/03/20
by Brad Weiner

Seahorse – ekoostik Hookah


ekoostik Hookah has been wandering around the jamband world for
many moons and their music has only improved with time. They are, in
fact, one of the few jambands whose songs translate well in the studio as
is the case with their new release entitled Seahorse. It is a typical
groove-laden album with an eclectic chef's salad of styles and rhythms.

Seahorse deserves critical acclaim immediately for its presentation
artwork. The cost of recording and distributing music is at an all time low,
and it is wonderful to see bands that are concerned with the visual
stimulation in addition to the audio soundtrack. The liner notes feature a
full nine-panel foldout painted with a serene blue aquarium pattern. The
band members are painted on one side enjoying themselves in their
underwater playland where, presumably, this music could have been

The title track is a simple, beautiful song about life under the
sea. It features amazing three part harmonies that run after one another in
a game of vocal duck, duck, goose (greyduck for the Minnesotans).
Unfortunately, the band uses the ambient underwater feel as a vehicle for
a monster funk jam in the middle. I find these sections clichimply
we already know these bands can jam; that's how they gained our attention in
the smoky bars of the world. The true challenge comes in sedating the jam,
and letting the mellow remain mellow. ekoostik Hookah takes a few too
many opportunities to lift the music off the ground when it would be more
palatable hovering closer to the surface. They pull off the same musical
stunt in several other songs. In some cases, the jam amplifies the music,
in others it diminishes the overall musical credibility.

Lyrically, ekoostik Hookah is all over the map. Two tunes penned by Ed
McGee, the band's rhythm guitarist, are a little too fluffy to go by without
notice. The first, "Bone", is an anthem about the flaky, big city club
scene. One verse states "All your damn cologne is choking me/Your
unfriendly words are aimed carefully/You take a look at me and roll your
eyes/You call me names while your make-up dries". The words are a
stinging representation of the sore thumb experience. McGee then goes
into a full blown sermon about the benefits of loving one another. "I know
people who are not afraid to smile/and being happy's still in style". The
vocals are well done, but the barking diatribe followed by the lovey dovey
embrace can become an intense emotional roller coaster.

Pianist Dave Katz, conversely, writes several tunes that are a little more
bluesy and have interesting environmental ideas like those in "Ridgway
Sky," "I Been Down that Road," and a wonderful railroad tune called "Silver

By far, the album's true highlight is the bluegrassy number "Highway
Home." It proves that ekoostik Hookah doesn't have to blast their
audience with Hammond-generated tone clusters and hugely distorted
guitar riffs. They pull off an authentic sounding acoustic anthem about life
on the road. Guitarist Steve Sweney, who is one of the sickest musicians
on the jamband circuit, puts away his plugs and picks up an acoustic
guitar and even gives the high and lonesome a beautiful twangy tinge on
the dobro. The tune also features several guests on mandolin, banjo and

Seahorse is a noble effort in the studio. ekoostik Hookah generated a
great marker of their musical possibilities at this point in their career.
times, the jamming takes over, a trait that is not unusual for bands who
learned to play in the spirit of the moment. Seahorse is definitely
checking out, simply because its sound is able to breathe despite its being
submerged under hundreds of gallons of deep blue sea.

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