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Music Review: Akron/Family – Love is Simple

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Is it mountain music meets experimental galactic rock?

Sing-along tribal folk crossed with psychedelic blues and funky Cajun fiddle? It’s hard to shake the feeling that the word “hootenanny” should somehow be involved, as well.

But whatever you call it, Akron/Family’s music is eclectic and fun, and their album Love is Simple mixes silliness with real musicianship and about every musical influence you could pull out of a hat.

The band is clearly comfortable with their instruments. The music is presented well, but does not sound overly rehearsed; the sense that the members are noodling around and having a perfectly marvelous time at it is strong. They also make ample use of sing-along, clap-along and chant-along action.

Fingers fly frantically over frets on “I’ve Got Some Friends.” Good-hearted goofiness is accompanied by effortless guitar work and a few electronic noises blended in for good measure.

On “Ed is a Portal,” tribal-sounding chants, chirping birds, a capella interludes and what sounds like a banjo are rolled together with skillful guitar picking to create a bluegrass-meets-new-age epic.

There is an overriding theme here: love.

From the title of the album to the first and last tracks ("Love, Love, Love (Everyone)" and its reprise) to almost every song in between, the message is hard to miss:

 “What can be done?/ What can we do?/ Go out and love, love, love everyone.” A sappy Birkenstock agenda? Hardly. Though the theme is sweet and loving, the music is anything but saccharine.

The rollicking “Of All the Things” celebrates the Irish drinking tune, infused with jolly vocals and rock-star guitar feedback. There’s dance-worthy music followed by a quiet interlude, wrapped up with raucous distortion.

These guys are obviously having so much fun that I can’t imagine their live shows would be anything less than (there’s that word again!) a righteous hootenanny. I bet they put on quite a show, with plenty of audience participation.

Though they’re touring this fall, they seem to have limited destinations. They had a few West Coast dates in October, and have late November/Early December shows scheduled in Europe and the UK, but no more US shows as far as I can tell. If Akron/Family makes it to a city near you, grab a pint and check them out.

Regarding mountain music, emotions generally run high. People either love it a lot or it makes them very angry when they hear it. It would be a mistake to let any preconceived notions prejudice you against or in favor of Akron/Family, however.

Though there are elements of bluegrass on Love is Simple, the album is not for die-hard fans of the traditional sound. And those of you who think you hate it might just surprise yourselves.

Love is Simple effectively blends psychedelic rock and roll with numerous styles of traditional music and just enough new-age flavor not to levitate you off the ground.

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