I guarantee this is a review of the new album Time to Go by The Orange Constant. Really. But indulge me for a few paragraphs first, please.
I am a music junkie. I have 5000 LPs, more than 2000 CDs and a loaded iPod. I acquire music constantly. I love buying from bands at shows, because I am certain where the money goes. I also like purchasing from a band’s website. And I certainly like to shop locally. I live in Tampa and frequent the Sound Exchange shops when I can.
But sometimes we in the jam community have difficulty locating material by some of the artists who have impressed us. There are online sites that specialize in our brand of (relative) obscurity. My go-to guy is Lee Crumpton.
Crumpton created Home Grown Music Network some 20 years ago in North Carolina. I’ve been dealing with him for almost 15 years. He and his knowledgable staff are conversant in jam, rock, funk, jazz, reggae, ska, jamtronica, and [fill in the blank — they probably have it]. They carry a huge catalog of ‘classic’ artists, but HGMN specializes in promoting groups in need of distribution help. From their website:
Leeway’s Home Grown Music Network is a shared collective of people, independent jam bands, live music venues, and businesses working together to make the independent music scene stronger.
When I order, I usually have several things in mind and several questions to ask, the most important of which is:
What do you have that’s new that I can’t live without?
And every time they deliver. I had seen a blurb recently about The Orange Constant, and it sounded like it was right up my alley.
I had no idea just how much.
I did read beforehand that John Keane was involved with this recording, but I would have known instantly; his unmistakable signature is all over this wonderful project. Keane engineered the album and contributed percussion and pedal steel.
But Time to Go would have been superb no matter where it was recorded; it is just that much better with Keane.
The Orange Constant continue the brilliant tradition of music emanating from the overflowing fountain of Athens, Georgia. They are: Andrew Brantley, vocals, guitar, keys; Nickalous Benson, guitar, vocals; Lee Guentert, drums; and Will Noggins, bass. The quartet formed in 2012 while they attended Georgia Southern University and have steadily grown their fan base since. A five-song EP recorded in 2014 preceded this debut full-length album, which was released last June.
And they have hit a home run on their first trip to the plate. From the first strains of “Emily” all the way through to the jammed-out coda to “Ask Me to Jump,” Time to Go is a pure delight. You will hear influences throughout the disk, but this is fresh and exciting.
“Emily” begins with a nice guitar intro with syncopated drums into a great guitar riff that the tune is built upon. Brantley’s vocals are honey-smooth, so pleasant on track after track. The chorus rocks, and the guitar solo is driven by Guentert’s tom-toms. The harmony vocal is perfect.
Another beautiful tune follows: “Good Intention.” The lyrics are poignant, the playing first rocking, then sublime. Goggans’ bass really stands out here, as does Benson’s guitar figure. The tune ends on a rocking upbeat.
“Cannonball” is chunky, funky blues rocker that features the Damcaster from Georgia Quarter (read more about it here) with great harmony vocals.
The group returns to an uptempo outing on “So Young, So Old.” The guitar solo is a quiet beauty, each note distinct and beautiful.
“Mask” starts with lovely twin guitars that segue to a reggae-type beat propelled by Guentert’s persistent cymbals work. The lyrics are again conscious and relevant, the vocals still smooth and such a respite from much of today’s ‘singing.’ The closing guitar solo is the perfect coda.
If I had to pick a favorite track, the leader in the clubhouse might be “Squid,” despite the fact that it is instrumental (their vocals are just so good). Keane chimes in here with his pedal steel, in just the right places. As on every track, the bass and drums are heard to great advantage, again thanks to Keane. The guitars wrangle and overlap. If you are looking for screaming, blistering guitars and jangly everything, this is NOT the album for you. This is wonderfully subdued, contained, delivered to you in style.
“Breeze” is a bouncy romp, solid drums, Keane, vocals, lyrics. There is great maturity in this band’s playing, almost muted, Hammond B3 coloring the background. “Bring your breeze to me, your breeze… to me.”
Raw guitar announces “House of Shutters,” more great bluesy rock. The fuzz-tone quality of the guitar draws you right in. “You’ll find me in plain clothes in a house of shutters.” A great wah-wah guitar solo rides atop the groove.
Goggans’ bass introduces “Southern Snow,” another great subdued song with acoustic guitar and electric. Vocals and guitar solo are again spot-on.
Finally, a beautiful ballad in “Ask Me to Jump.” Keane’s pedal steel and Brantley’s piano stand out, and then the song launches into a great jam, that perfect Southern jam-rock feeling oozing out with every note. It’s a superb ending to a superb disk. It’s in constant rotation.
The Orange Constant is on tour: check them out. You can find much more information on the band’s official website.
The bands we love and the bands we ‘discover’ need our support. Buy tickets to their shows, hit the tip jars, buy their march, and purchase their music — from the band in person or on the web, from your local shop, or from an online store such as Home Grown Music Network.
You know exactly what will happen if we don’t.
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