Dan & the Electros • It's Never Too Late

Opus 3 CD 22091
Hybrid Stereo SACD
2010

Music

Sound

Sticks & Stones

Opus 3 CD 22102
Hybrid Stereo SACD
2011

Music

Sound

by John Crossett | June 11, 2011

f you ever needed proof that music is the international language, these two releases are it. Sweden is a hotbed of neither bluegrass nor surf music, yet Sticks & Stones and Dan & the Electros prove that it’s what’s inside, not where you live, that is most important when it comes to creating interesting and vital music.

Sticks & Stones got its start at a Swedish university in the mid-2000s, where the members met and played together during their college years. After graduation, however, each drifted off to follow his or her individual career path. A few years down the road, they all met up again and found that their interest in acoustic music had migrated to focus on bluegrass, which was becoming all the rage in the US. In Sticks & Stones, I hear echoes of Alison Krauss + Union Station, Nickel Creek, and The Chapmans -- not a bad set of inspirations.

What makes this album all the more impressive is that it is not a collection covers; the music is all original. If you were to be introduced to it without knowing who was playing or where they were from, you’d be hard-pressed not to jump to the conclusion that this is a hot new US band -- that’s how authentic this music is. Chock-full of the mournful songs that are the hallmark of good bluegrass, the album holds a plethora of catchy numbers as well, such as the title cut, "You Don’t Have To," "Guide Me," and the instrumental "Al Mansoury."

Toss in recording work by Opus 3 that is excellent by any standard and you have a demo disc you’ll be pulling out for your own enjoyment as much as you’ll be using it to show off your audio system. The instruments have full texture, tone and timbre. There is also a palpable sense of space, each instrument having its own room to bloom. Vocals -- especially the harmonies -- are utterly believable.

It's Never Too Late is an entirely different kettle of fish. While Sticks & Stones is an album made for inclusion in any lineup of contemporary releases, Dan & the Electro’s collection is a tribute album. All numbers were self-penned as well, but as the liner notes point out, they are an attempt at re-creating the California-surfer and British-invasion music that we all (well, those of us of a certain generation at least) grew up listening to. This is music that will put a smile on your face -- its joy is infectious, and it rocks. Listen to "Shaken Not Stirred" for a prime example of how close Dan & the Electros come to reviving those heady days when rock'n'roll was rising to dominance.

Again, Opus 3 has done a superb job of capturing the band's power and delicacy. Although the liner notes don’t make any mention, I hear no evidence of overdubs or compression. Thus, the music leaps from the speakers, and you may just get out of that listening chair and start dancing. This is a party disc that preserves your audiophile cred.

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