To my knowledge, there’s no such thing as a “North Country sound,” save for the gaggle of Adirondack traditionalists preserving that region’s folk catalog, or perhaps the country-infused “Northern rock” of Greenwich’s Eastbound Jesus. Yet, events like last weekend’s Backwoods Pondfest in Peru highlight something of a musical renaissance taking place in striking distance of the Northway. Triangulate between the wobbly jam-funk of Vermont’s Twiddle and the rustic acoustica of Saranac Lake’s Blind Owl Band and you’ll find Plattsburgh’s Lucid. Their new record Home Is Where We Wanna Grow might be the closest thing the region’s scene has to a Rosetta Stone.
There’s something indelibly rural about the album, from vocalist Kevin Sabourin’s politics (“American Profit”) to co-vocalist Lowell Wurster’s bluesy growl, to the sense that most of the album’s 12 tracks could have been written on acoustic guitars and hand drums with a bottle of whiskey nearby. What’s wrong to assume here is that these rural ethos have anything to do with lumberjack nostalgia. See, Adirondack folk have the Internet, just like the rest of us. Home is, therefore, a sprawling mess of musical styles, from the accordian waltz of “Parisian Melancholy” to the Afro-Cuban tumbao “Pterodactyl Lips.”
There’s a bit of a playful wink implied when the band stretch so far into the exotic, making more domestic tracks like “Ground on Up” and “Came and Went—Silhouettes” sound more like the default mode. Here, there’s a fragrence of Southern rock with rollicking drums and harmonica that is fun but a little predictable. Sabourin’s sensibilities at times skew toward the late-’90s acoustic jam of bands like Dispatch and Ani Difranco, full of rhythmic strumming and dense, percussive verses (“Boats”). But, as a whole, the album is a buffet experience, offering a taste of organ-drenched beach rock here (“Can’t Get High”), ’50s teeny-bopper croon there (“Highest Vibration”), with plenty of horns to taste.
The album is, above all, a testament to the band’s musicianship and likely evidence of great dexterity live but, for all the stylistic surprises, lacks a bit of the adhesive the album format demands. Somewhere in all the form play, Lucid themselves are starting to shine out, and my hunch is that it’s in the second track “Despots,” a comparatively simple song that weds male-female vocals to a gorgeous accordion drone and the most perfectly economical horn figure on the album. Maybe this is all to say that the North Country sound is still a bit molten, but it should be fun to listen as it firms up.