Moossa – Right Way Round

It is very hard these days to pigeon-hole any band into the genre of “jam band.” The term has become more ambiguous over the years, straying in multiple tendrils from the original trunk that sprung from the roots of the Grateful Dead. Veteran Richmond, Virginia rockers Moossa have been classified as “jam” before and some of that description does fit as they have that uncanny knack combining a sort of loose abandon with undoubtable musical prowess, blended with various root influences. After a hiatus of several years Moossa returns with “Right Way Round,” and it can be very simply defined as flat-out, great, enjoyable music. There is a delectable flow throughout the ten tracks with music that can simultaneously sooth you and entice you to get up and boogie. A soul/R&B influence is prominent here, obvious at the onset when you experience the opening strains of the title track. The subtle influences branche out from there with the bawdy bluesiness of “Petrified,” reggae-kissed “Nothing But a Name,” and funkified “The Coming Of Dawn.” Ryan Davis, Moossa’s groovin’ bassist, experienced an extremely creative songwriting phase, penning all but one of the tunes on the CD. Singer Nancy Waldman adds serious spice to many of the songs with her own soulful vocal chops. Guitarist Trey Batts pays compliment to John Moossa’s vocals, Telecaster, and acoustic guitar with his extraordinary work on the Strat, and adds a further vocal dimension on a couple songs. Drummer Dennis Vignola melds in perfectly with Ryan’s bass work to drive the rhythmic boogie. This may be the best line-up Moossa has had since their inception, showing why if you do wish to call their music “jam” it is in no way a slight to the band as that is often a nod to bands who have stellar musical capabilities. To me, it feels much more like the “retro soul” genre the band has deemed its music. Moossa easily fits into the category of having incredible musical talent, a quirky approach to songwriting, and the way to translate the obvious joy they experience in creating their music so the listener can also experience joy as well. – MW



The Shack Band – America

The Shack Band – America
Jam band rock is one of those “big tent” genres, encompassing the wide range from the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic groove of the Grateful Dead to the Southern fried blues of the Allman Brothers from the frenetic but controlled improvisations of Phish to the the prog-fueled intensity of Umphrey’s McGee. Perhaps no genre save the blues is steeped more in the way the players feelings are intertwined with what comes out of the speakers. Another aspect of what makes a jam band truly great:  You cannot really pigeon-hole them as a jam band. The Shack Band may have been influenced by some of the aforementioned acts, but they are not coattail hangers. This Richmond, VA based fivesome is one of those bands that has a knack of taking their talents, their feelings, and a signature vibe kissed by a broad range of influences and weaving it into music that is catchy and listenable in so many different ways. They definitely have created their own vibe that tilts a bit jazzy at times, a bit ska/reggae at others, spicing up a stew that is already a feast of flavors. The lead track “Muddy Waters” has a sly touch of prog enhancing the feel-good groove. “Waiting” takes a bit of a trip to the Caribbean with some really killer sax work. The title track has Worldly touches and a funky vibe driving home the topical, thought provoking lyrics. “Meant To Be” shows that the band can handle ballads with musical eloquence and emotion, and “Rock Bottom” has a ska spirit that could make Desmond Dekkar blush. With this being their second release and first full length one, The Shack Band shows that they are all excellent players, but know how to use their musical prowess in the right doses so it is noticeable without being pretentious. The vocals are superb, with emotion sometimes driving the song, and at other times a subtle enhancement to it, further augmented by solid harmonies. The lyrics are also a highlight to the music, often striking home with issue-based or soul bearing themes, holding your attention as you realize the band members put their true feelings into the music’s creation. Feelings are definitely what it is all about with The Shack Band, and if this CD is any indication, “America” should be catching fire across America and beyond once more people experience their wonderful musical journey. – MW