Bassist and composer John Davey’s newest album Open Range is a worthwhile listen. He is joined by guitarist Ken McBain and drummer Dean Sharp for 12 songs in the guitar-trio idiom.
Davey’s upright bass always provides the body of the overall sound as in the opening track “Trail’s End (Shortcut),” which sets the pace for the whole record. McBain’s guitar swells in and out of the texture, and Sharp moves the groove forward without ever falling into a straight swing for too long. He is extremely interactive, and this is especially important on the slower grooves like “Heartland.” Davey’s physical sound seems to be rooted in jazz as he plays the upright bass, but his sensibilities go far beyond that. Most of these tunes groove really hard, and it would have been just as easy for him to use an electric bass guitar, but his voice comes from the bass fiddle.
Davey’s compositions are punctuated by two old Western tunes, “Home on the Range” and “Wayfaring Stranger.” It’s funny that “Wayfaring Stranger” was an old Western tune, because Davey is able to give it a Middle Eastern sound with his arrangement that features the bass bowing out the melody in a low register while he overdubs a slightly out-of-tune take of him plucking in the upper register to give an Eastern harp-like texture.
“Better Days” is a rollicking distorted guitar melody that flies over a lot of trashy cymbal sounds and ultra-low bass and is gone in just over two minutes. The title track “Open Range” is a new-agey Americana thing that features the bass and acoustic guitar doubling the melody as Sharp chugs along with brushes on the snare drum.
This album sees a fairly standard looking guitar trio at first glance but, given a closer look, anyone can see that this is unique creative music distinctly from the Hudson Valley.