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Ohio Grown – ekoostik Hookah

Acoustic Records 111008

It's been three years since Ekoostik Hookah released a set of new
studio recordings. It's not as if the band broke up or was being lazy. The
band members spent those years following their normal routines — touring
country and putting on music festivals each spring and summer. Now, it looks
like Hookah is making up for lost time. Hookah not only put out
Seahorse in
2001, but recorded and released another studio effort, Ohio Grown,
Thanksgiving. Its approach is just another example of why the group goes the
independent route. It can get away with not releasing an all-new title for
awhile and then bestow two sets of goods when the time feels right.

Ohio Grown, with its double-meaning for a Columbus-based band whose
moniker refers to the smoking instrument, brings together material from
the past with a few fresh cuts that haven't been honed in front of
audiences. Despite the short time between discs, the band's regular
slate of gigs and two Hookahville music festivals, the sextet found the time
to experiment a little with what makes up its sound. Normally, one finds
elements of rock (including prog rock), blues, folk, country, bluegrass and
Now, horns, a string section, and even a gospel choir infuse the sound.
Granted, it's only on several numbers, not throughout the album, but their
inclusion shows that Hookah isn't intent on being boxed in by what it can
but constantly searches for what's possible.

Is it 100 percent successful? It is, once you get used to what the band
aims to do. Ohio Grown starts off with a bang, as "Dragonfly" tears
with an urgency that made me wonder if it was from a soundboard of a live
performance. "Raging River" continues in that manner, and so do several
familiar tunes that have made their way on to the band's setlists. In fact,
much of Ohio Grown gives the impression of the ebb and flow of a live
show. And that's a good thing.

When the band stretches out in some new musical directions, it briefly
interrupts the proceedings because it's so unexpected. Of course, further
listenings diminish that feeling.

Still, that's not enough to discriminate against what ekoostik Hookah has
done. Within the span of a little more than a year, the group has recorded
and released two noteworthy albums exhibiting a jamband that understands the
subtleties between shaping a number for the recording studio and expanding
those melodic ideas on the concert stage.

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