One of music’s cornerstones has been a good jam session. Whether it’s rock, blues, funk, reggae or soul, and no matter if they’re playing originals or covers, as long as the musicians complement each other, a good jam is fun all around and sounds cool.
Led by former Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson, The Magpie Salute came together in 2016 to jam on a few tunes in Woodstock, N.Y., then in 2017 released a mostly live/mostly covers self-titled album that showed the collaboration had some serious harmony. Now the band has pushed forward to produce its full-length studio debut of original material, High Water I, due Aug. 10 via Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Produced by Robinson and recorded in Nashville, Tenn., the album begins with some bullfighting sound effects followed by the thumping of drummer Joe Magistro and the fuzzy guitar tandem of Robinson and fellow ex-Crowe Marc Ford on the defiant “Mary the Gypsy.” Also featuring boogie piano and a lyrical tale of nonconformity, it’s a solid opener. After that, the tide settles down a bit for the title track, a folky mid-tempo number on which singer John Hogg has a chance to shine, as his low register mixes with a soaring tone for the chorus. Hogg also stands out on “Send Me an Omen” by kicking his bluesy voice around some great Robinson-Ford guitar interplay.
“Sister Moon” draws much of its melancholy from the combination of the haunting piano of Matt Slocum and the subtle strings that hover in the background, only to punch out when you least expect them. (The lyrics, however, with their limp psychedelic imagery, are unfocused and dull.)
On “Take It All,” the musicians are right at home in their blues-jam pocket. Featuring heavy bass by Sven Pipien and the slide guitar magic of Ford, this track is a sweet kickoff to the album’s second side — and it’s also the song that should get the most replays because it pulls the best out of the participants.
Consistent simplicity dominates the remaining tracks: “Hand in Hand” is a fun campfire jam, while “You Found Me” is a pretty ballad that has some lush slide guitar paired with brush drums.
The 12-song album closes with “Open Up,” which builds to a soaring chorus with the right amount of background harmony. The band gets a final chance to showcase its chemistry with a great breakdown section that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s layered in a way to indicate that they could have done more, but instead chose to save something for the next recorded jam session/album (which, by the way, will be High Water II, due next year).
— By Mike Madden