I can still remember jealously searching through pictures of Grateful Dead shows past and seeing Phil Leshs sons sitting atop speakers on the side of the stage, enjoying the music, capturing the essence of what their father was doing. I always dreamed of what it would like to grow up Dead. I also still remember hearing that Grahame had joined Phil Lesh and Friends on tour and barely remember catching them at All Good Music Festival that same year. Many said he wasn't ready to be playing with such high caliber musicians at the time but now with hundreds of shows under his belt with Phil Lesh and Friends, as well as, The Terrapin Family Band, Grahame Lesh has set out on a new adventure with Midnight North, releasing their brand new album, Under The Lights. I was lucky enough to grab an advanced copy of this album and checked it out. Here is my honest opinion of the album and the songs within.
First, I should start by addressing Jam Band fans; while they can definitely find something to enjoy in this album, they should not expect Jam music; no long guitar solos or improvisational progressions, just straight and to the point songwriting, much like the Grateful Dead's seminal albums, American Beauty and Working Mans Dead. Under The Lights seems to veer more in the direction of Alternative Country but with lyrics much more poignant and endearing than anything seen in country music today.
There are more than a few songs that I found interesting on this album and driving down the road, I turned them up, really delving into the writing process; trying to understand the depth of the album itself. Songs like, "Playing A Poor Hand Well" and "Headline from Kentucky" showed versatile songwriting techniques and musical arrangements that impressed me but didn't quite get me there.
"Roamin" struck a chord with me personally; the driving beat and simple lyrical structure keep me turning it back to hear it again. I think that most people can find something to relate to within this albums very well recorded songs. The recording itself is polished and rehearsed, clean and precise. I would have liked to have heard a few more guitar solos but there was some fine instrumental playing done by Elliott Peck, Alex Jordan and Conner O' Sullivan within all of these tracks. I was very impressed with female vocalist Elliott Peck, she really adds another presence to this band and they wouldn't be the same without her.
I have truly enjoyed watching Grahame Lesh grow musically and succeed in the industry his father helped create. I am so glad we have a new generation perpetuating the scene and culture that surrounds it. Even though this album lacks improvisational qualities, I am positive their live shows are quite different and if we can affect any change in Nashville and the pop country scene by an means, it's good for us all. Keep doing what you're doing Grahame Lesh and keep rollin' down the track Midnight North.
May The Jam Gods Be With You,
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.