By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
When the members of birch county--formerly Wonderland--worked on an album last year with a friend producing gratis, they weren't exactly thrilled with the results and scrapped it. This five-song EP is proof that no work is ever really for naught. Ambitious modern pop, birch county sounds like they redoubled their efforts to create an identifying sound after that disappointment; their earlier toil seems to have sharpened this new release.
Realizing that a producer can do more than unlock the studio, they put themselves in the hands of David Castell (Deep Blue Something, Course of Empire), a guy known for approaching the studio as a process that should improve a band. After more than 100 hours of preproduction, birch county has come up with a sound that is strongly reminiscent of the Sundays (thanks primarily to the strong yet supple pipes of vocalist Lisa Taylor), but with the buzz and angularity of the most modern of rock pioneers, acts like Vibrolux and rubberbullet.
Like the Sundays' best, the songs on birch county have a sense of travel, of airy sojourns through experience and emotion. Unlike the work of its sometimes-enervating Brit cousins, though, the fuzz and fire of birch county's more aggressive guitars give the band's travels a choppy, exhilarating rush--heavier on the pitch and yaw. The sound captured here is already dated--rhythm guitarist Paul Reid hadn't yet been added--but Castell will return to produce the group's full-length debut, due by the end of the year.
Down By The Glory Hole
Hot Link Records
Cornhole is a pretty good band with a horrible name, a moniker that conjures up images of some poor white-trash yokel sitting on the back steps of his double-wide trailer thumbing through a porno mag, or Beavis roaming his high-school halls, hopped up on sugar and caffeine with a T-shirt over his head. Cornhole plays country-thrash anthems for the slice of America that considers a Dukes of Hazzard marathon reason to skip work, and a stale beer a balanced breakfast.
The album sounds like Cornhole was weaned on Tom Petty and Bad Company-era boogie rock, with a touch of Johnny Paycheck mixed in. Unfortunately, after a while the songs tend to run together, almost as if the band learned one song, got really good at it, and then stopped trying. One exception is "Black in Nashville," a song with a loping, traditional country beat that decries, "The only thing left black in Nashville is Johnny Cash," and calls to mind the heyday of outlaw country, before line-dancing was allowed. Perfect for your next food-stamp barbecue.