[1 June 2008]
How many musicians can one roots disc involve? In the case of Scotland Barr and the Slow Drags’ latest release, twenty-two is the magic number. The result is a quaintly grand feast of roots-rock instrumentation. With the backbone of five core band members, All the Great Aviators Agree lists several studio musicians adding an instrument here and there to various tracks. The opening track, “Fall Hard”, combines country drumming and melody against a Zydeco-inspired introduction. Pedal steel guitar (by Bryan Daste) adds the extra bit of twang, and the sheets of guitar recall the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” jams. Occasionally, other influences like chamber pop creep into the fold, as in the delightfully crisp “Juanita”, with its music box introduction. Later in the refrain, layers of backing vocal harmonies cascade across the threshold with pleasant falsetto. Barr’s vocals might as well be from the love child of Mike Doughty (Soul Coughing) and David Lowery (Cracker) in his gruffness and enunciation. When he sings within his natural register, he conjures images of overflowing ashtrays and empty bottles of whiskey. He and his outfit offer a unique take on a roots record with Aviators.