Saturday, January 23, 2016

Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang - Stat(u)e of Mind

2015 – Bafe’s Factory
By Phillip Smith; Jan 23, 2016

Stat(u)e of Mind , Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang’s fourteen track follow-up to their Hales Pleasure Railway album, sports even more innovative instrumentals than its predecessor.  I love the way their music takes a step off the beaten path to dissipate the boundary between Bluegrass and Jazz.  This innovative trio from Helsinki, Finland consists of guitarist Ville “Lefty” Leppänen (Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip), drummer Tero Mikkonen, and bassist JP Mönkkönen.  In September 2015, the band recorded Stat(u)e of Mind at Firebrand Recording Studio in St. Louis, Missouri, after accepting an invitation to perform at the 2015 International Steel Guitar Convention.

Mikkonen beautifully performs the opening song, “Gateway”, on ukulele.  Clocking in at just a smidge over a minute in length, this Hawaiian flavored appetizer makes for a lovely intro for the rest of the album.  Leppänen breaks out some fantastic swampy guitar licks on “Aloha Garage”.  This is one of my absolute favorites.  “Route 68” has a cool jazzy character.  Mikkonen and Mönkkönen keep the rhythm hip as Leppänen lets loose with an outstanding avant-garde performance.  Leppänen sets a melancholy mood for the lovely “Almost Too Beautiful” before taking me by surprise with “Duel”.  Without words, this instrumental is still able to tell a story.  The listener is marched in to this Latin infused masterpiece with a flurry of spaghetti-western/surf guitar.  The song takes an unexpected and marvelous turn the moment the horns pop.  This is such a killer track.  I like to think of the closing song, “Sergio” as a fantastic tribute and homage to legendary film director Sergio Leone and the man who scored the lion’s share of his films, composer Ennio Morricone.  The Morricone influence certainly shows.

It's really fresh to hear a band like Southpaw Steel ‘n’ Twang share their unique brand of music and captivating compositions.  Stat(u)e of Mind is abundantly full of character and a delightful listen.   

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