The Honest Hour
By Written by John Metzger
The Music Box
October 2004,Volume 11, #10
Despite the grassroots success of the jam band community
as a whole, its collective mainstream aspirations largely remain unfulfilled as most media
outlets continue to ignore a vast majority of what happens within the genre.
Even the teens
and college students who skitter from show to show seem to be more in search of a friendly
atmospheric buzz than a moving musical experience, although the notion that the latter
even exists among the tirelessly self-indulgent mediocrity put forth by the bar bands
toiling on the scene's touring circuit is certainly a question for debate.Indeed,
the large-scale, national successes that have come to fruition since the music segments
categorical definition was assigned all have been built around pure marketing muscle.
The most notable of these, of course, is the Bonnaroo Festival, but even its organizers
take the term "jam band" so loosely as to make it utterly meaningless while piling on a
litany of classic rock bands that were better serving the market long before the classification
even came into existence. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, the recent trend among
frontmen from the more folk-inclined ensembles to strip away the improvisational orgy in
an attempt to reveal something deeper. In essence, they are trying to bring legitimacy
to the insularly incestuous coterie of ganja-smokers by stepping into the realm of
singers and songwriters, and for what it's worth, it's good that they are moving
beyond the mindless meandering of their main projects, although it would be better
still if they actually had something to contribute.
In the case of Reid Genauer, former leader of Strangefolk, the point is somewhat foggier.
Assembly of Dust, his latest ensemble, is filled with jam band veterans drummer
Andy Herrick was snatched from Moon Boot Lover; Nate Wilson was plucked from Percy Hill;
guitarist Adam Terrell previously performed with Groovechild; and bass player John Leccese
spent time with both of the latter two ensembles and after Genauer's song-focused debut
flat-lined and failed to excite even Strangefolk fans, he turned to that typical jam band staple,
the live album, for his sophomore effort. Introducing nine new songs that span a
collective 60 minutes, The Honest Hour feeds Genauer's soulful, folk-rock tunes back
into the improvisational mill where they are brutally stretched out of shape by a series
of meandering piano interludes, guitar solos, and vocal exchanges. Speculator fares the worst,
reaching an exhausting length of 11 minutes, and while it clearly strives for Bruce Hornsby's
brand of organic jazz-pop, it falls far short of matching his gracefulness.
Elsewhere, Honey Creeper woefully struggles to wrap a Jimi Hendrix-influenced guitar riff around
a David Crosby-style melody, and Paul Henry is so light and airy that it dips into a
nightmarish hell where Christopher Cross serves as the frontman for Spyro Gyra.
For the record, Genauer has a better sense of melody than most musicians with his background,
and in the process of crafting his own material, he frequently draws from the likes of
Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, and a whole host of early 70s folk-pop artists. Yet, the end
product is bereft of the type of resonance that has made his heroes music endure for more than
30 years, and as a result, The Honest Hour sounds exactly like a cover band that decided to pen
its own songs long before it was ready.