George Fetner and The Strays- (Thrive on New Album 'Longer Like This')
Over the past 4 years of writing music reviews and album reviews here at jambandpurist.com, you'd be surprised how many albums I have received in the mail, mostly CDs, countless digital downloads, and every once in a while I get a vinyl to add to my collection. This makes all the difference when trying to decide which albums to devote a full review towards. Going the extra mile always gets my attention. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first put on 'Longer Like This' having never heard any of GFATS music. I was pleasantly surprised by the immediate interest in the full and dynamic sound coming out of my speakers. George Fetner and The Strays are an eclectic group of musicians from Colombia, South Carolina. The core musicians include Craig Butterfield on bass, Anthony Charles on guitar and vocals, Matt Fenech holding down the drums, Jeff Vaughn on percussion and fearless bandleader, George Fetner on guitar, vocals, and synth.
The album opens up with a crisp scratch as the record moves around the needle and sound begins to flow through. “No Longer You” ll Feel So Alone” reverberates throughout my entire house. George’s voice coming to me from what seems like everywhere. The opening vocals are profound. The track develops and opens up into a world all its own. The poignant lyrical development of this track readies the listener for what’s coming next but still leaves an air of mystery.
“Let Down” explodes through my speakers, “getting let down!” The horns absolutely complete this song and add another layer of musicality that makes you want to pump your fist in the air and sing along. The added female vocals don’t seem to be needed but still add to the sonic sound of “Let Down.” We can all relate to the lyrics of "Let Down" simple, yet engaging and memorable. Sometimes having unforgettable, singable lyrics can overshadow even the greatest music but this song is perfectly blended. The guitar solo on this song is very well done and lays in the mix precisely.
The drums come out heavy in “Carolina Moonlight” which is sang in a cadence that is old school funk, "Carolina Moon" reminds me of classic funk songs straight out of New Orleans with the entire band onstage partying and singing together. "Carolina Moonlight" is a party and the mix of instruments amalgamate to make something greater than what would be there without each one. This song is where the entire ensemble unites and works together harmoniously.
"Thrive" comes out hard and I could tell from the first notes I was going to like this one. This song has a very "yacht rock" or even a Steely Dan feel and I say this with respect not jokingly. Although if any of you haven't seen the short skits online called "Yacht Rock" do yourself a favor. I digress, remarking on the quality of the recording itself; the production is top-notch and makes the entire album better for it. "Thrive" exemplifies this outstanding recording quality and is by far my favorite track on 'Longer Like This'. The breakdown at 5:00 is what I live for and why I love to write reviews here at Jam Band Purist. This is one of the main reasons I do these album reviews, to find gems like this and share them with all of you. "Thrive" becomes quite the Jam towards the end and I can imagine George And The Strays bringing it home in a live performance setting.
"The Cosmos Blast" begins with a radio transmission that captures the interest of the listener and brings the story to the forefront. With a reggae sounding shuffle, this song relies on its thought-provoking lyrics and funky groove which had me enthralled with the message and the music. The bass from Craig Butterfield is heavy and strong, and when the horns build-up it has an almost "2001: Space Odyssey" feel. I enjoy the creativeness of "The Cosmos Blast" and the energy that is brought to this recording.
"The Matador" settles the listener back into a chill vibe, with a percussive, and lyrically driven song. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact genre for George Fetner and The Strays, they seem to be able to move fluidly between rock, folk, jam, and even experimental in each song. The chorus to “The Matador” is the best part of this song; it’s very smooth. The breakdown at 4:00 into the flute solo is also very well done and transitionally solid.
"Ain’t Going Back" has blues and southern roots, it reminds me of a lot of up and coming jam bands but with a twist. Again the Lyrics make the listener think and relate. The guitar solo is very progressive and delivers us right into the cacophonous conclusion that made the hair on my arm stand up. "Aint Going Back" explores the creative songwriting from this group and I would have loved to have seen more of these "breakdowns" or terraced dynamics used throughout.
"Love Like A Rocket" is the only song that didn't particularly resonate with me but still has an undeniable interesting aspect that the listener can immediately grasp onto. "Love Like A Rocket" makes sense and is most definitely a love song. "If You Need Me" is a great conclusion to 'Longer Like This' and left me wanting more from this diverse group of performers.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Longer Like This’ and receiving the vinyl copy made me appreciate the experience even more. There is nothing like opening up a new vinyl, plopping it on the turntable, and dropping that needle. The process, the sound, is the ultimate home music experience. George and The Strays have created something unique and new. I dare say that 'Longer Like This' is something entirely distinct altogether and stretches the limits of genres and categories. With an entire ensemble of performers, it's hard to give each of these musicians a shoutout but Id like to recognize all of the players on 'Longer Like This" here: Davis Bowers on tenor sax, Will Melven on trumpet, Catherine Allgrim on bass trombone, Moses Andrews on organ, and Wurlitzer, Katie Leitner on vocals, Desiree Richardson on vocals, Lauren Watkins Vaughn on flute. Teamwork makes the dream work. I truly wish I could see this band live someday. Heck, I'm hoping to see any live music before 2022! Do you want to see your band on jambandpurist.com and be added to the list of prestigious reviews? Contact us and submit your album in whatever form you prefer, extra points for creativity.
'Longer Like This' can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and here at: https://www.gfats.com/longer-like-this and
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.