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Music Review: Trey Anastasio – The Horseshoe Curve

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The photo on the cover of Trey Anastasio's new album The Horseshoe Curve shows a train coming around the side of a mountain in a mystical land. The Train looks as though it were about to gall into the overlooking ocean, but the steam coming from the train seems to give assurance otherwise.

That mystical land perhaps represents the inner workings of Trey Anastasio's mind, a mind which has produced a truly funky album. Each song is a journey, whose notes narrowly making it inside the staffs. Repetitive beats continue on in one direction only to be rescued with something more melodic elements such as saxophone, bass and keyboard solos. As in the song "The Streets of San Francisco," where quick blues riffs, coupled with saxophone lead up to an Organ solo. Once the organ solo reaches a crescendo, the rest all follow suit and join in on the funk.

The Horseshoe Curve is completely instrumental, with only the track "Burlap Sack & Pump" lending to short vocals at the end of each solo. With the absence of lyrics, Anastasio is better able to showcase his blues and funk musical ability. He is, of course, assisted by some of the finest musicians, such as bassist Tony Markellis. Markellis plays on "Sidewalks of San Francisco," "Burlap Sack & Pumps" and the title track "The Horseshoe Curve." The base gives this album its backbone, and its blues cred.

At lot on this album will be enjoyed by the music master, which I am not. The lay man may not pick up everything, but for those into advanced musical composition gut tells me there a lot in this album. Anastasio recorded this album, at "The Barn," Anastasio's personal studio complex in Vermont, as well as Trout Recording in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Horseshoe Curve, is not a musical composition which has a beginning middle and end. If you listen to Olivia before you'll know it you'll be into the next track "Burlap Sack and Pump," a song which is six minutes and 55 seconds long. It's different from "Jam Band" music in that many parts of this album need to be dissected and awaited for. Saxophone Solos mean that the albums Jazz merits can't be ignored such as an intricate alto/baritone saxophone solos by Dave Grippo.

You may not hear this collection on radio, but I doubt that was Anastasio's intention. I believe Anastasio process of tedious musical craftsmanship is used to create a unique raw, improvised sound. Anastasio probably will never lose that improvised feel. In fact he included two live tracks "The 5th Round" and "The Horseshoe Curve." The latter recorded at a 2002 show amphitheater at Station Square in Pittsburgh, if you listen close you can hear Trey and his band playing in unison with the echoes of a near by train.

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  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    Nice piece, Travis. I think you nailed something that many people who claim to dislike jam-band music don’t get: Anastasio is a great guitarist in general and isn’t necessarily limited to the jam-band genre, and to focus solely on that is unfair to both the listener and the musician. That said, I’ve yet to get hooked by this one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not an immediately satisfying release and I’m fine with that – I love an album that grows on me over time.

  • http://indysportsblog.com Travis Duncan

    Thanks for the comments. Yeah, I really thought I heard a distinction here even from his previous solo albums. At first I think I didn’t like it because I was already expecting songs like “bouncing around the room” or some “pop” stuff but once I really tried to listen to it, I could hear it was more about saxophone solos. And to a laymen that seems like a jazz album

  • Mr. N.

    I like eggs too!!!