Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cricket Spin - Grans of Salt, Grains Of Sand

I will admit I was a tad apprehensive before I put Cricket Spin’s album Grains of Salt, Grains of Sand into my CD player, mostly since the name evokes images of a bluegrass band complete with suspenders and corncob pipes. However I was in for a pleasant surprise from band leader Ben Yonda and company.
The band’s sound draws from so many directions, that a single description would do nothing but injustice. At times the group explores simple folk-rock structures while peppering them with orchestral arrangements of woodwinds, xylophone, and more. Front man Yonda’s voice oozes with sincerity, harkening to a less whiney Bright Eyes in the upper range, and a less growling Tom Waits in the lower. Combining the pop sensibility of early Elvis Costello and The Beatles, Cricket Spin weaves an album that is simply fun to listen to.
The first two tracks “Our One Day Lives” and “Last Night Lovers” are bright, driving songs which propel the disk right off the bat with passionate electric guitar, eloquent keyboards, and chilling female backing vocals. The following track, “Vanishing Point” shifts to an almost minimalist acoustic format, reminding me periodically of the acoustic work of Neil Young. This song is but one example of how the band can take a simple folk-inspired riff and captivate the listener. The upbeat “Exclamation!” sounds as if it were written at a house party, with friends providing hand claps as the lone acoustic guitar takes center stage accompanied by tasteful tambourine.
Grains of Salt… returns to an electric format for the lovely Melanie Wonderful, which hearkens to Spike era Elvis Costello (minus the dated drum machines and synths). The drums on the album have an organic feel which does much to tie the plethora of instruments together. The slightly wavering tempo of the drummer gives the album a lo-fi character not found in the world of pro-tools and major labels.
This is an album full of heartfelt lyrics which draw you deeper and deeper into the record as it progresses. Cricket Spin flexes their creative muscle frequently on this disk, providing tracks ranging in feel from sorrowful dirge, to triumphant celebration. Their originality and sincerity keep Cricket Spin from becoming just another derivative folk-rock band. This album is not a “throwback”; in contrast it is a leap forward, showing just how much love can be packed into a single album.
The only gripe that I have is that the second half of the album lacks the energy of the first half. While all the songs are well written and executed, I could easily see people being lulled to sleep by the time closing track “Kittery” comes along.
Ben Yonda, as well as 2 of his band mates are graduates of our lovely RIT: two with degrees in New Media Design, and one in Film. Ben has since moved the operation to Brooklyn where the band now resides, playing shows regularly in and around New York City.

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