The Ginger Envelope
One Cent Press
Steve Miller is in this band, y’all! I don’t know if this is a side project or if his other outfit broke up, but he’s handling the low end on this outing from Athens, Georgia. Now hold on, before you start swaying to the soulful – if pitch imperfect – version of “The Joker” that’s playing in your head, or air-keyboarding to that dope-ass breakdown in the middle of “Fly Like an Eagle,” you should know this sounds nothing like the Steve Miller Band that put the class in classic rock. (NOTE: Nope, not the same Steve Miller. The Steve Miller Band is still together, actually. Ignore paragraph one.)
The Ginger Envelope is an alt-country outfit that spins rich, mid-tempo rockers in their cracker barrel. They also bring organs, pianos, banjos, strings, and horns to the party without disrupting the guitar-oriented foreground. The formula is simple, but the Ginger Envelope’s songs reverberate louder with each new listen, yielding tightly woven acoustic guitar, bell-like electrics, and the melancholy spice of sighing pedal steel.
Things start boisterously with the roiling “Caretaker,” a track that gallops on the back of Miller’s Wings-era-McCartney stylings. Vocalist Patrick Carey’s voice is nasal but sweet and cuts straight through the middle of all the dust and sparkle. Elsewhere, however (with the exception of the opener and the e-bow laced “Silver”), Edible Orchids rarely spurs its horse drawn wagon into anything beyond a trot.
Miller tries his best to spur things on, varying his melodic bass with lilts and interesting harmonic reversals, but does little to persuade drummer Jason Robira to do much more than move his backbeat from the 2 & 4 to the 1 & 3. On “Lady Barber,” when Robina does give in and offer some sexy floor tom hits and high hat, you get the best song on the album.
However, if you do Edible Orchids a favor and throw on a pair of headphones, there is plenty to appreciate in these short, leisurely tunes. Just beneath the surface, there’s the fret buzz of a strummed acoustic guitar, the vibrations of xylophones, and the occasional harmonizing from Karolyn Troupe. Matt Stoessel’s forlorn pedal steel is buried inexcusably deep in the mix, and many of the twinkling layers that lie beneath the surface of these songs are like stars you have to squint up into the sky to see – “Drift” and “Kites” are two excellent examples of this.
The Ginger Envelope could use a more dramatic mix the next time around to push some of their exotic instrumentation to the forefront, but Edible Orchids is a well-played and conceived trip down that dusty country path, if you’re willing to take your time.
Steve Miller Band: http://www.stevemillerband.com/ • The Ginger Envelope: http://www.myspace.com/thegingerenvelope