If your promised land is full of warm harmonies, rich guitar, and well-crafted songs of cosmic country rock, then you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Promised Land Sound is a group of young guys in their early 20s, musicians who weren’t alive when their primary influences – Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Poco – were stretching the boundaries of what country and rock could be when combined, with a touch of psychedelia in the mix as well. Although press materials are overselling the psychedelic aspect of Promised Land Sound’s music, there’s a dreamy, hazy glow in much of their material reminiscent of other genre revivalists such as Beachwood Sparks.
Second album For Use and Delight’s opener “Push and Pull (All the Time)” employs a determined, walking rhythm with watery, shimmering jangle guitar that sets a strong start to a satisfying collection of songs. Coming out of that upbeat beginning, “She Takes Me There” dials things down a notch, as if, now that the journey’s begun, the band has loosened up enough to explore different moods and textures. It’s a song coming from a place we’ve all been at one time or another, a place of longing and lost love – brought to life here by the siren call of a sharp, mournful guitar lead.
Songs about growing and changing dot the landscape of For Use and Delight, through the mellow acoustic strumming and organ of “Through the Seasons” (“Oh, something’s gonna change / Someone calls my name / Rising from the flame / Now I’m gonna change”) all the way through to the enveloping “Canfield Drive” and sleepy “Northern Country Scene”.
In “Better Company”, the lines “Are you satisfied with your peers? / And how they’ve treated you over the years? / The years have passed and still to come / You are to believe / The world you seek is what you’ll find in better company” are delivered in a Dylan-like sneer. That better company for Promised Land Sound seems to be found in the music of yesteryear. Take “Otherworldy Pleasures”, for instance, which borrows the waltz-time drum pattern from Buffalo Springfield’s “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”. Elsewhere, instrumental “Dialogue”, on which six-string virtuoso Steve Gunn sits in, recalls those great old late '60s / early '70s country rock albums, which, often as not, featured a hot picking vocal-less number.
True, Promised Land Sound finds much of its inspiration in music made by an earlier generation, but their take on it never feels forced or unimaginative. Most importantly, it doesn’t sound like retreads -- the songs convey an honesty and immediateness many bands playing more obviously contemporary music fail to achieve.
“Without Sight” finishes the album in a grand closing statement, taking its time to unfold. “Whatever’s going up must come down," the band sings as the track slowly builds momentum, moving through two instrumental breaks, and ending with waves of effects and wah-wah guitar, approximating something like being sucked into an aural vortex, a whirlpool connecting with the watery opening guitar notes from the first song.
Are these songs the sound of the promised land? Well, if your promised land is full of warm harmonies, rich guitar, and well-crafted songs of cosmic country rock then you’ve died and gone to heaven.