Mixing psychedelic music and country music can be a deeply pleasurable concoction. It’s something that bands like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Flying Burrito Brothers all the way up to more recent acts like Beck and The War on Drugs all have in common. They masterfully blend the finesse of country song-writing with an often near-suffocating amount of reverb to create something that lives outside of its two mother genres entirely. But, this mixing of styles can be problematic. Delve too deep into the psychedelic aspects of the genre and a band can end up sounding like a bad Grateful Dead covers band. On the flip side, rely too heavily on the country aspects and the music can often fall into sentimental mush.
It is rare to see a band straddle these two genres so naturally and dexterously, which is exactly what makes “For Use and Delight” such a joy. Promised Land Sound released their self-titled debut album in 2013 when the band was still too young to drink in their home town of Nashville, Tennessee. Two years on, Promised Land Sound have produced a much more mature album in the form of “For Use and Delight”.
First up is the vibrant opener “Push and Pull (All the Time)”, a five minute long slice of psychedelic rock with some snarling Dylan-esque vocals. Right off the bat, Promised Land Sound are showing how they can seamlessly move between anthemic choruses and more psychedelic jam band material. The cluttered drums on the second half of this track mix so well with the warm, glossy guitar tones. It is a combination that, when paired with superb production, makes me imagine watching pots and pans falling down the stairs in slow motion. I mean that in a glorious, sublime kind of way; not in a look at all the spaghetti hoops I’m going to have to clean out of the carpet kind of way.
“She Takes Me There” is just as much haunting as it is gentle. The way the guitar and the vocals on this track interweave really create a very bare, lonesome atmosphere. The lyrical response between the vocals “Where could she be?” and the backing vocals “She’s over me” really gives the listener an idea of the solitude this song portrays. “She Takes Me There” finishes with a dazzling slide guitar solo that perfectly complements and heightens the rest of the song.
The guitar work on this album really is stellar. Aside from the clear technical proficiency, there has been such a care taken to maintain a psychedelic aesthetic to the guitar tone, without seeming overly familiar or cliché. The acoustic guitars feel tactile and punchy; the use of effects on the electric guitars feel well placed and seem to be chosen as contributing factors to a song, not just an afterthought of a guitarist with far more pedals than ideas.
As the album moves forward there is a good amount of variance between songs to keep the listeners’ interest peaked. “Golden Child” is a real shot in the arm after some of the more drowsy numbers. It is a raw, bustling track filled with some very sweet, brittle guitars. Probably the slowest and most Dylan-esque moment on this album is “Canfield Drive”. It is a track that feels so much like a 1960s protest song “18 years old, they took his life, a summer’s day, on Canfield Drive”. It is a powerful lyric, especially when coupled with the otherworldly production on this song.
There is a kind of shimmer to this whole album. It’s in the production but most importantly it’s in the song-writing. Every song and performance feels as if it has been presented just as it is meant to be. To take “For Use and Delight” at first glance, it could be dismissed as just another derivative album yearning for a seemingly purer time in music. But, there is an incredible amount of honesty and ingenuity in this music that really shines through. Promised Land Sound have hit their stride with “For Use and Delight” and hopefully there is more to come.
Promised Land Sound ‘Use and Delight’ is out now
Words from Will Calvert