Cave States is a collaboration between Chris Grabeau, Danny Kathriner and Todd Schnitzer, three songwriters who, over the past couple of decades, have individually been involved with numerous St. Louis outfits, Nadine and Wagons among them. However, in 2013, they got together for their first collaborative venture, The Great Divide, earning comparisons to the likes of The Jayhawks and Jason Molina.
Three years on, they return with this sophomore outing and, while the sleeve rather annoyingly gives no indication as to who sings what, the vocals on the languid opening track, Commuter, which features pedal steel from regular collaborator John Higgins, put me in mind of Justin Rutledge, which already makes it a winner in my book.
Fortunately, its appeal doesn’t rest on just one number. In swift succession No Words adopts a more propulsive rhythm with a circling guitar line, the yearning In The Dark gradually gathers in sonic substance with clacking percussion and strings as it heads to a close and a dobro-tinged Over And Done recalls sun-kissed 70s West Coast harmonies.
There’s a folkier edge on Floating Around, a bucolic country croon to Mountain, a Prairie Companion country waltz feel carries Lazy Susan and, while I’m not persuaded it sounds like the Turtles backed by Hope Sandoval as the blurb proclaims, featuring background vocals by Paige Brubeck, the piano led Kingdom Come is rather lovely. Prior to the campfire instrumental closer title track, they include a cover of Badfinger’s Take It All which, with percussion that sounds like bursts from a steam release valve, actually calls to mind the early Bee Gees.
The band’s name, and indeed the album title, are inspired by Plato’s Allegory about learning to perceive the true reality rather than its shadows, but you don’t need a degree in philosophy to recognise the substantial beauty at play here.
Review by: Mike Davies