Monday, November 20, 2023

Lee Gallagher And The Hallelujah: “The Falcon Ate The Flower” (2023) CD Review

Lee Gallagher is originally from Ohio, but it was in San Francisco where The Hallelujah was born. And that makes total sense, as there is a psychedelic element to some of the band’s music. It has that San Francisco vibe, that sense of adventure, that desire to start at the roots and expand from there. Lee Gallagher has since moved to Nashville, but still decided to record his new album, The Falcon Ate The Flower, in California. It was recorded at Palomino Sound studios in Los Angeles, where L.A. Yesterday, the band’s 2020 release, was also recorded. The band is made up of Steven Mertens on bass, Jonny Niemann on keyboards, Will Scott on drums, and Jason Soda on guitar. They are joined by Scarlet Rivera on violin. All the songs on this new album are originals, written or co-written by Lee Gallagher.

The album opens with “Planes.” There is a bit of Robert Plant influence heard. Partly it is his vocal approach, but also in the line “Held a book of spells.” As you probably know, Led Zeppelin was kind of obsessed with Lord Of The Rings, and that line brings that to mind. This track features some nice work on keys. It has an interesting vibe, particularly with lines like “Gathered in the darkest rooms I can hear you calling/Turn the lights up, let me see your faces/Hear the planes circle in the sky/Keep the bomb/Drop the fly/Been buzzing too long.”  And soon he is repeating the line, “There’s nothing you can do.” It is after that line that the song really begins to blossom, getting into some interesting territory. This is when the band jams, and we hear that psychedelic influence. I love that guitar work as the band drives forward into the unknown, turning it into the known as it does so. It’s a powerful and compelling opening track. Then “Peregrine Fly” features some beautiful work from Scarlet Rivera on violin. She might still be best known for her work with Bob Dylan, but Scarlet Rivera has performed and recorded with many other artists, and always delivers fantastic work. In recent years, she has played on albums by John Mayall, James Houlahan, and Tawny Ellis, among others. This is a rather pretty song, in part because of her presence, but also because of the sweet guitar work and the vocals. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Careful what you ask for/In times like these/There’s little to ask for/In times like these/There’s little to give.” The vocal performance and that violin have me close to tears. This is one of my favorite tracks.

When “Something Better” kicks in, the guitar reminds me a bit of some Neil Young & Crazy Horse music. There is a powerful, raw strength to the sound. And the line “Searching for the sound” of course reminds me of the Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain,” which has the line, “Listening for the secret, searching for the sound.” These lines also stand out: “Now I’m gonna leave this town/Ain’t waiting for your hand-me-downs/I just took some reds and sang the blues.” Fantastic. I just want to feel the weight of this song on me, let myself go. You know? And somehow it builds and grows, particularly the power behind his vocals. This track features a good jam toward the end. It was written by Lee Gallagher and Jason Soda. That’s followed by “Half Lit (The Future’s Ours).” This might be a good song to have along with you on the road, depending on your mood. When it’s dark and you’re alone and you have another hundred miles to go and it feels like the world has ended, and you want to rock to keep awake, this song is a perfect companion. “These are the times we feel alone/It’s too real/The future’s ours/To steal.” Jonny Niemann is rocking the keys, while the guitar soars. And then near the end there is some good work on harmonica. It all ends suddenly, and a little laugh lets us know it’s okay.

“Haymaker” eases in, establishing a gentler vibe at the start. And even though the music has a kind of soothing effect, Lee Gallagher sings, “Come on, come on/Wake up/Don’t sleep away the day.” This one too features a good vocal performance. It is followed by “The Mission,” a country rock number with a fun vibe. There is some humor in these lines: “We’d burn down in the back/Just respect the neighbors/Keep that music down/No, it ain’t even midnight.” And I like the drum work on this track. “Every Little Sound” has a mellower opening, but there is nothing mellow about that vocal delivery. “Because every little sound/Is amplified around me/I was feeling lost/Oh, but then you found me.” This track develops into a good jam, featuring some excellent work on guitar.

Some gorgeous work on violin sets the tone for “Can Anyone See Me?” which is another of the disc’s highlights. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I can hear the waves/And in my mind they stay/For a long while/For many a mile/Can anyone hear me?” It’s a beautiful song that reaches out to an unknown and unspecified audience, as when a singer puts an album out there. I love the way this one builds, that great stuff on violin taking the song to a higher level. That’s followed by “Baby I’m There.” As in the first track, he mentions a spell early in this one: “Bring me back/Cast a spell.” This is another strong track, with a full sound. Lee Gallagher revisits the image of waves in this one as well: “Learn to sail/And I’d ride the waves/Cross my heart/And say a prayer/You gotta be somewhere/You gotta be somewhere.” This song feels like an encore to me, a closing number. It has that kind of energy. But it is not the last song of the album. That honor belongs to “Remember When,” a pretty song with a gentle vibe. “When you look away now I’ll know why/You can freeze the ocean, you can still the sky/You were on the ground, but you got back up/Did you fall in line, did you hear that stuff.”

CD Track List

  1. Planes
  2. Peregrine Fly
  3. Something Better
  4. Half Lit (The Future’s Ours)
  5. Haymaker
  6. The Mission
  7. Every Little Sound
  8. Can Anyone See Me?
  9. Baby I’m There
  10. Remember When

The Falcon Ate The Flower was released on November 3, 2023.

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