Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Old Californio: “Metaterranea” (2023) CD Review

Last year’s release by Old Californio, Old Californio Country, was a bit different than earlier releases from the group in that most of the songs on it were covers. Now with Metaterranea, the band is back to delivering original material, and showing again what talented songwriters they are, and why this band is such an important part of the southern California music scene. On this album Woody Aplanalp plays guitar, lap steel on one track, slide guitar on another track, and provides backing vocals; Rich Dembowski is on lead vocals and guitar, and plays bass on a few tracks; Corey McCormick plays bass on the rest of the tracks; Justin Smith plays drums on half the album’s tracks, with Anthony Logerfo on drums for most of the remaining tracks; Jon Niemann is on keyboards and piano, and Paul Lacques is on lap steel; Jason Chesney provides backing vocals on a few tracks.

The band kicks off the new album with “Old Kings Road,” a rockin’ country number with a strong bass line. It features some cool guitar work, sounding at times like something the Rolling Stones might have done during their coolest period. Paul Lacques delivers some great work on lap steel. It’s a song about music that seems to come naturally from the landscape, and there is no question where this music takes place, with phrases like “beneath that California heat” and “it’s that California sound.” There is some good work on keyboards toward the end, and this track has an interesting and unexpected conclusion. That’s followed by “Come Undone,” which has a good, positive vibe. “Everything comes undone by design/That’s why nothing ever ends that can die/Believe what you will, believe what you like.” It’s a song that helps put things into perspective. “And though the past has passed, it’s not behind you/The soul keeps no curfew/And where you finish, everything begins.” I like that work on piano. Jason Chesney provides some backing vocal work on this one.

“The Swerve” has a sweet, gentle sound, with a late 1960s or early 1970s flavor, which I love. Rich Dembowski plays 12-string guitar on this track, and Woody Aplanalp plays slide guitar. Anthony Logerio is on drums. Here too the band offers a philosophical outlook, heard in lines like “And the yawning chaos at your feet/Holds a path only you can meet/And though it often brings us to pain/Everything that waxes must also wane.” There is so much great guitar work on this track. Then “Timeless Things” has more of a folk vibe and opens with a question, “Who you gonna call/When it all comes tumbling down?” This track features a wonderful vocal delivery, with a bit of a Paul Kelly vibe at times, and some pretty guitar work. This is the track on which Woody Aplanalp plays lap steel. I also like the percussion. Andres Renteria plays conga on this one.  “Destining Again” also is more in the folk realm as it begins, and soon builds from there, taking on some rock elements. “Can’t go back/‘Cause nothing lives in the past/Get yourself turned around/There are no signs, no maps to unfold/To show where you’re going.” This is one of my favorite tracks. I love that guitar work. And it’s a song of the road, both physically and metaphorically.  But I think I’ve got to get off of this freeway/‘Cause I can’t help but thinking/It’s the things that I’m chasing/That keep me from the destining waiting.” Ah, who knows? I find myself wondering these very things, but have come to no conclusions yet. As long as there is music like this along the way, I’m happy.

As soon as “Weeds (Wildflowers)” begins, I am under its spell. It’s a delightful number, at the edge of a dream, with a friendly delivery. “I’ve got nowhere to go, no one to meet/I shook heaven from the stars, and kicked hell out from under me/I’m on my way/With nowhere to be.” Jason Chesney provides backing vocal work, and Lon Hayes plays drums on this track. I love this song more and more each time I listen to it. There is something magical about it. “We’re all weeds in the garden/But weeds are all wildflowers/Where no gardens are.”  That’s followed by “The Seer.” Its opening lines grab me: “There’s a crack in the fabric of reality/Through which/If you wish/You can slip.” Again, these guys can really write some damn good lyrics. Then “Tired For A Sea” has a pretty opening, creating a wonderful landscape, and growing from there. This song is like a beautiful path cutting through reality, and inviting us to ride it to some other realm. It features an excellent vocal performance, plus some nice work from Anthony Logerfo on drums. The lines from “Through The Days (And Past All Nights)” that stand out for me are “Yes, to know how small we are/Before the vastness of our stars/Provides a way through their fiery wheel/And the vastness waiting at our feet/Has a light at its heart only we can meet.” Jason Chesney is on backing vocals. They then wrap up the album with “Just Like A Cloud.” This is another that moves at times like a dream. “Leave the sad spinning world below behind for a while.” It then becomes more forceful on the line “Then I’ll come down.” That guitar work gets pretty wild toward the end, just before things seem to take off beyond the clouds.

CD Track List

  1. Old Kings Road
  2. Come Undone
  3. The Swerve
  4. Timeless Things
  5. Destining Again
  6. Weeds (Wildflowers)
  7. The Seer
  8. Tired For A Sea
  9. Through The Days (And Past All Nights)
  10. Just Like A Cloud

Metaterranea is scheduled to be released on October 27, 2023.

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