[27 November 2011]
The Windsor Player is a Portland, Oregon-based outfit helmed by Troy Stewart of Snow Patrol and including members of R.E.M., Everclear, and numerous other bands. This particular outfit pursues a electric-acoustic vibe of rustic grandeur, felt most clearly in the thrumming strains of “Tired Pony,” which combines foot-stomping rock and roll with a country sentiment, complete with lyrics about bucking broncos and so forth. “Were You a Good King” is a more familiar rock and roll workout, while “Familiar Story” and “Empty Well” slow down the proceedings enough to let the pretty melodies and solid musicianship take center stage.
It’s all very good, but doesn’t elevate into anything more until R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck shows up to play mandolin on three tunes – the above-mentioned “Tired Pony” plus “Under the Floor” and “Just a Song” – which happen to be the best tunes on the record. Channelling a more distinctly country/bluegrass feel courtesy of banjo and fiddle worked into the mix, this trio of songs offers a clearer identity for the band than the other tunes on the record. Plus, they rock. More of this, please.