2014 – Bafe’s Factory
By Phillip Smith; Sep 21, 2014
Hales’s Pleasure Railway, from the Finnish trio, Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang, is an interesting roots music album with a heavy jam band appeal. Ville “Lefty” Leppänen, guitarist for Micke Bjorklof & BlueStrip, breaks out his lap and pedal steel guitars to join forces with drummer Tero Mikkonen, bassist JP Mönkkönen , and special guest organist/backing vocalist Jukka Haikonen for a stripped down, in-studio recording of eleven original “twangfully” terrific songs, most of which happen to be instrumentals.
Swampy cowboy-western “Open Field” is thick with steel guitar. Taking a curious twist midway, Leppänen mysteriously captures the essence of the Grateful Dead with a very-Jerry Garcia inspired journey on lead guitar. Afterward, the listener is dropped off into a funky little danceable track called “Bayou” which has a fun and infectiously swampy Louisiana-flavored groove. Perfectly fitted to be on anyone’s tiki party playlist is “Secret Sunset”. This Hawaiian themed track puts a smile on my face every time it’s heard.
Leppänen creates an aura of hipness in the ultra-cool, “Bad Alley”, with haunting guitar riffs, like those of Jim Heath of Reverend Horton Heat. I absolutely love this style of playing. Slowing things down a bit is “Red”, steeped in a tasty brew of jazz, and sweetened with the resin of Pink Floyd’s very early years. “Dark C”, a monster of a song, rocks out like Primus with a heavy bass line, industrial beats, and funky grooves.
I really like the way Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang, surrounded in the spirit of early country & western music, brings with it, the delightful art of the jam. That, along with a few contemporary influences, makes Hale’s Pleasure Railway a vibrant enjoyable listen from start to finish.