From the first song, ‘Faded’, this album is a rollicking good time. Such is the energy on these tracks that I wanted nothing so much as to be sitting in a bar watching Pelz play, because it sounds like that would make for a really great experience.
Pelz is the singer/guitarist for the Cincinnati Americana/Bluegrass outfit Hickory Robot, so his country musical pedigree is well established, and these are definitely country songs: the instruments, the time signatures, the lyrics all establish that, with some variations. There are influences from across the decades of country music – echoes of The Byrds mixed in with the lyrical sharpness that marks the latter years of country.
Pelz demonstrates that he knows what each song needs. On the tenth track, ‘Sand in the Machine’, the lead vocals are given to Lauren Schoelmer, a soulful female singer who gives the song the drama it requires – as well as a female narrator. On other tracks he’ll adjust his own vocals to suit, and he clearly understands what instruments are needed when. While the album is, as mentioned at the top, highly entertaining, it’s also musically sophisticated – listening between the lines, so to speak, there is a lot going on.
And still I come back to that idea of what Pelz must be like live: to capture joie de vivre along with the essence of his songs is always going to be a treat for a listener. So if you’re ever near Cincinnati, make sure you go to a gig and then drop me a line to tell me what it’s like.
Loser Angels is out now.