The Hanging Stars – Songs For Somewhere Else
Crimson Crow – 16 February 2018
The Hanging Stars are a psych-folk-country five-piece based in London. While still firmly rooted in the 70s cosmic Americana pioneered by Gram Parsons and Neil Young, their second album expands their musical horizons. It takes in the shimmery sounds of Dennis Wilson, the sweet-acid and gospel of Lazer Guided Melodies era Spiritualized, Morricone and, on Water Song, even dreamy Bossa Nova filtered through a pedal steel gauze.
Those whose spines tingle at the mere thought of jangling guitars will be in heaven with album opener, On A Sweet Summer’s Day, that superbly captures the feel and sound of McGuinn et al circa Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, while the prohibition blues vintage Too Many Wired Hours shifts comparisons to The Lovin’ Spoonful with some added sax.
Casting around, with its whistling and mood echoey intro Mean Old Man could have come from a Leone soundtrack, at least until it morphs into a staccato, organ-driven desert blues whereas Honeywater draws on the dreamier, yearningly melancholic moments of Big Star.
The lope-along jangly-strum How I Got This Way features guest duet vocals from Miranda Lee Richards (and later resurfaces as a brief belated instrumental coda) while, leaning closer to the classic country mined by Parsons, the vocally double-tracked For You (My Blue Eyed Son) rides a drum shuffle and the sort of crystal stream pedal steel that flowed through Wasn’t Born to Follow. In complete contrast, Dig A Hole mingles shoegaze and cosmic country with the northern brass warming the midsection and linking arms with the pedal steel for the playout.
I’m not entirely persuaded by the rockier and noisier Pick Up The Pieces, from beneath which a gentler swaying Byrdsian croon seems to be struggling to emerge and, while it may well offer a musical sense memory of the pines of titular Southern Sweden region where frontman Richard Olson spent his childhood, the psychedelic-shaded instrumental Djupsjön really doesn’t work in the context of its surroundings. Those quibbles aside, however, this is another worthy addition to the British branch of the Parsons legacy library curated by the likes of Teenage Fan Club, The Goat Roper Band and Lewis & Leigh.