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Tea Leaf Green

In the Wake

(Greenhouse; US: 14 May 2013; UK: Import)

These San Francisco jam-rockers have long had a knack for writing hooky tunes that serve as vehicles for improv, but with the jams serving the songs. The band has gone deep into the well here to create an album rich with cathartic power that feels like a complete work of art.


It’s not a concept album, but it has a running theme of celebratory catharsis in the wake of some personal tragedies. The band has painted their most complex sonic tapestry yet, overflowing with auditory bells and whistles that show mature musicians using all their skills to accent their longtime love of down to earth rock and roll.


“Shooting for the moon, we’ve got nothing left to lose but our minds,” sings keyboardist Trevor Garrod on opening track “Someday”. There’s an instant connection for any dreamer who feels like the 21st century hasn’t yet panned out with one’s hopes and dreams. The track pulls the listener right in for a sonic journey with a compelling array of twists and turns throughout the course of the album. The band harmonizes beautifully on the trippy title track involving an emotional road trip, and In the Wake makes a great soundtrack for a long drive, one of the hallmarks of a great album that holds up from start to finish.


Garrod delivers one of his catchiest tunes yet with the first single, “Give Me One More Chance”. The tune features an infectious bass line from bassist Reed Mathis, a guest female vocal from Leslie Grant for a duet with Garrod on a plea for love, and some great guest slide guitar from Animal Liberation Orchestra’s Jeff Lebowitz, who teams splendidly with guitarist Josh Clark. Mathis steps up to sing on “One Condition’s Enough” and “Don’t Go”, a pair of complex love songs that feature Beatlesque production harkening to the Sgt. Pepper era. We always knew Mathis was a virtuoso bassist with deep appreciation for rock history, but here we see him continuing to grow as an artist.


Clark’s acoustic “Space Hero III (Forever in Space)” exhibits a gorgeous Jimmy Page influence, updated for the modern era in a heartfelt interlude about “trying to find our place in the human race”. Drummer Scott Rager and percussionist Cochrane McMillan star with Garrod on “Two Parts”, a compelling rocker with a tight beat and some of Garrod’s deepest vocals. The song is beautifully layered, with the band showing a sonic mastery of a recording studio’s potential that many jambands fail to grasp. There’s more great tandem percussion on Clark’s rocking “Space Hero IV (Letters Home)”, with the guitarist cutting loose for one of his trademark blistering solos on a great jam that finds the quintet totally synched in.


The infectious piano pop rock of “We Aren’t Done” seems to function not only as a great album closer, but as a band statement to a world in which the dynamic quintet is underappreciated, that they are far from ready to throw in the towel. Garrod is easily one of the most talented singer/songwriters of his generation and In the Wake serves as a declaration that Tea Leaf Green are still in it to win it.

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Greg M. Schwartz has covered music and pop culture for PopMatters since 2006. He focuses on events coverage with a preference for guitar-driven rock 'n' roll, but has eclectic tastes for the golden age of sound that is the 21st century music scene. He has a soft spot for music with a socially conscious flavor and is also an award-winning investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @gms111, where he's always looking for tips on new bands or under the radar news items.


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10 Feb 2014
Tea Leaf Green keeps jamming on year after year because this is a band that is indeed all about the music. That passion comes out in the tunes and the live shows, and it’s what keeps the group’s dedicated fan base coming back for more.
17 Jun 2013
The buzz around the album is that it’s a little more experimental, with the band dabbling in a wider sonic palette for maximum creative expression while also tapping into how the talent in the band adds up to a greater whole than the sum of its parts.
13 Nov 2012
These torch bearers to the original San Francisco Sound are always ready for some musical quidditch.
4 Oct 2011
Mainstream recognition and financial rewards have been hard to come by, but the band’s seventh studio recording should go a long way towards changing that. Then again, more than likely, it won’t.
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