Album: Labor Of Love
Label: Randm Records
Release Date: 04/22/2016
Fruition is one of the many gems of the burgeoning Portland, OR music hotbed. This release represents the band’s evolution from mostly a string band into a multi-faceted unit capable of soul, psychedelia, and catchy pop. The binding force is the engaging three part harmony from Jay Cobb Anderson (lead guitar, harmonica), Kellen Asebroek (rhythm guitar, piano) and Mimi Naja (mandolin, guitar), all of whom are songwriters too. Along with their rhythm section of Jeff Leonard and Tyler Thompson, they are joined by guests Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, Jeremy Garrett of the Infamous Stringdusters, and others to create a melding of acoustic and electric.
This album was a year in the making, as the band went beyond their original sound to explore wall-of-sound pop, Motown- inspired soul and even world music rhythms. Thompson says, “With our previous albums we tended to treat each song the same, but this time we really went all the way with whatever sound we were going for.” On the opening title track you’ll hear dobro, mandolin and electric guitar followed by the soulful chorus-driven “Santa Fe.” Appealing balladry unfolds in “The Meaning.” Right away, you sense a variety in the material while struck by the captivating harmonies. R&B elements color “Above the Line,” and its closing Brazilian rhythms lead into “The Way That I Do,” which, upon first listen I likened to Simon & Garfunkel. My instincts were corroborated as evidenced by this statement from Anderson. “Part of the inspiration for the drumline in the song came from driving down the road and hearing “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel – I just loved the idea of having sort of percussion on an acoustic song.” The Beatlesque, psychedelic “Early Morning Wake Up” also exemplifies a different touch. Clearly, there is no “sameness” to their ten tunes.
Leonard describes one of the ways the album hangs together, “A common theme for all three songwriters is trying to embrace being out on the road all the time, but also feeling like you’re missing out on the everyday lifestyle most people get to have.” The basic song concepts may be relatively simple, but the band stretches itself admirably. Naja says, “We all tend to write on acoustic guitar and let things start in the same stripped-down, folksy sort of way that we always did. So where the songs come from hasn’t really changed much at all. What’s different is where we let them go from there.” As she says, let these songs take you away to some wonderful, mostly joyful places.