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The Sixth Great Lake

Up the Country


Step into the country with the Sixth Great Lake, on Up the Country. Yet this isn’t the “country” you’ll hear on your local “Hot Country” radio station, or what you’ll encounter if you’re unlucky enough to visit Branson, Missouri. This is rather an idealized view of rural living, where your days are peacefully whiled away lounging about on the grass and near the lakes, without a care in the world. Life here is laidback, peaceful and fun. Up the Country is all about communing, with nature and with other people, hippie-style.

There’s five members of The Sixth Great Lake: all five are also in the Essex Green, and two are in the Ladybug Transistor. What the three bands have in common is not only a love for the ‘60s and the natural world, but a knack at setting up a comforting, pleasurable atmosphere while laying on high-quality, melodic pop songs. The songs here are of the country-folk variety, a la The Band, American Beauty-era Grateful Dead, acoustic Neil Young or The Byrds post-Sweethearts of the Rodeo. All five members took part in the songwriting, and all contribute mellow vocals to complement the acoustic guitars, flutes and other instruments. It’s all completely nostalgic, both musically and lyrically, but it’s nice in that way, a sideways step into a world where the hippies of the ‘60s never sold out and became stock brokers, but moved out to the country and settled into a life of harmony and love.

Today, it isn’t hard to find musicians who wish they were around for the Summer of Love. The Sixth Great Lake seem to feel that way, as especially evidenced by a song like “27 Forever”, an apparent wish that their favorite musicians of the past could have stayed in their prime age, creatively speaking, forever. The quality that makes The Sixth Great Lake stand out from the pack of groups with ‘60s fever, besides songwriting talent, is heart, plain and simple. Their songs come off as completely honest. This isn’t nostalgia just for it’s own sake; they’re expressing real feelings here, about the environment, love, friendship and how humans can coexist peacefully. Every track has genuine emotions behind it, something especially seen on a handful of ballads, like “The Ballad of a Sometimes Traveller” and “You Make the Call”, which truly tap into that soul-baring, heartwrenching feeling, both lyrically and musically, with quietly intense singing and soulful guitar playing.

“We’re gonna soothe away the rest of our years / We’re gonna put away all of our tears / The big rocking chair won’t go nowhere,” they sing on the second last track, “Rocking Chair”, before floating away blissfully on the over-six-minute finale “Lovely Today”. Despite its obvious origin in the music of the past, Up the Country has a certain timeless feeling of wonder to it. They give the impression that they’re performing from some magical place, where they’ll be sitting on their rocking chairs, roaming the hills and singing around the campfire, forever and ever.

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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