Magnolia Summer - Levers and Pulleys

Music Reviews Magnolia Summer
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Magnolia Summer - Levers and Pulleys

Magnolia Summer lead singer-songwriter Chris Grabau has been listening to his Ryan Adams and Uncle Tupelo albums lately, and it shows. Levers and Pulleys, the debut from Waterloo sideman Grabau and his St. Louis alt-country buddies, may be part homage, part imitation or part creative slump (not a good sign on a first record). Whatever it is, it isn’t original. Listening to the album is like listening to an Adams/Farrar/Tweedy cover band. But there are worse strategies, and Levers and Pulleys features several excellent tracks. “Wish You Well,” with its jangly late-Tupelo, early-Wilco guitar riff, is a terrific song. “Unlock the Door” sounds like a lost track from Whiskeytown’s Stranger’s Almanac. “Baton Rouge” is a lovely, lilting acoustic ballad that would sound at home on a Jay Farrar solo album. But therein lies the problem. The most memorable songs sound like knockoffs of better-known alt-country icons, and the less memorable songs mope along prettily to their indeterminate conclusions. Grabau croons sweetly, and he has a way with a winning melody. But ultimately it’s not enough to recommend the album. Pleasant but undistinguished, Levers and Pulleys is the sound of what might be a decent alt-country band in search of its authentic voice.

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