Friday, April 19, 2013

Dave's Way: The Final Chapter

Welcome back, Moonalice fans!  We're coming down the home stretch of the Dave's Way review series.  After three weeks of immersing myself in music journey that is Dave's Way, I arrived at this conclusion as I sat down to write this week's review:  This will be both the hardest and the easiest one of the whole series.

Why?  Simple.  If you've followed the series of reviews over the last few weeks, you know that I've thoroughly enjoyed this box set so far, so I came into my initial listening of Volume's 7 and 8 already assuming I would enjoy the music to come.  I was not let down.  While the highlights were fewer than in the first six volumes (to my taste, of course), it in no diminished the quality of the music contained within.

I must admit, I was several tracks ahead when I began listening to Volume 7 of Dave's Way, having seen that the band covered one of my all-time favorite songs, Hallelujah, to close the disc.  More on that later.   Volume 7 begins by showing off Roger McNamee's storytelling abilities with Last Frontier.  Close your eyes, and you'll hear a touch of Dylan in McNamee's vocals, accompanied  by the sights and sounds of the uppermost reaches of the Alaskan wilderness.

Next up on the highlight list is, surprisingly yet another Grateful Dead influenced tune, an instrumental entitled Coconut Wireless. Coconut is the perfect balance for Roger McNamee's story telling in the open trio of tracks; it's as if the rest of the band finally decided to give him a break, and stretch things out a bit.  In typical Dead fashion, the band adeptly straddles the line between wandering and focused with guitarist Pete Sears taking the bull by the horns and soloing to his heart's content for seven solid minutes. Sears uses the opportunity to showcase both his songwriting abilities and chops, weaving a main theme in and out of exquisite lead playing.

Volume 7 closes with what I would consider the piece de resistance of the entire set, a cover of Leonard Cohen's classic, Hallelujah.  The trick with a song this iconic is to capture and deliver the emotion of the original, while putting your own flavor and feel to it.  Moonalice accomplishes this combination perfectly, with  touching instrumentals, highlighted by beautiful pedal steal lines from guitarist Barry Sless, including a pair of soaring solos that, with all due respect to, steal the show.  Despite the somewhat reserved quality of Roger McNamee's vocals, his work on this Cohen classic certainly delivers the emotion required to bring it home, making this the obvious choice to close the disc.

It is with no disrespect that I say that in the context of the box set, Volume 8 is the only possible weak link.  While there aren't any ear-grabbing highlights like the seven volumes before it, it is another small collection of Moonalice's full range of talents.  It opens with Rome Burns, which for reasons unbeknownst to me reminds me a little of the Animals cover of House of the Rising Sun with quicker pace.  Man in Me, and Angle of Repose are this album's Grateful Dead flavored tunes, and Diana's Up and Dancing brings Dave's Way to a close with an upbeat 50's rocker that's almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

And that, my friends brings this four part review of Moonalice's Dave's Way box set to a close.  It has been without a doubt a truly enjoyable musical journey, full of a wide variety of tunes, ranging from love songs, to Grateful Dead inspired jams.  Moonalice's musical background and ability to excel in numerous musical genres means that my statement from the first week's review holds 100% true: there is something for everyone across the eight volumes of the set.  I hope you've enjoyed exploring Dave's Way as much as I have.  

Now, if you'll glance at your calendar, you'll see that this series has come full circle, with the final edition having been posted on April 20th.  Let's celebrate, shall we?  Click here to pick up your free download of the opening track of Dave's Way, 4:20 Somewhere, because today, it's 4/20 here!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Every time You think You've got them figured out...

Before I begin the next edition of the review series for Moonalice's Dave's Way box set, I would like to dedicate this week's entry to the memory of Brandon Holt, 6-year old grandnephew of Moonalice video directory Glen Evans, who was killed earlier this week.  The thoughts and prayers of the Bootleggers Beware community are with the Moonalice family during this time of loss. His short time on this Earth is a reminder that we must all remember to live every day to its fullest.  A memorial fund has been established in Brandon's memory at    

There seems to be a recurring theme with this series of reviews: Every time I think I've got these Moonalice guys figured out, they manage to throw me yet another curveball. Each listening session contains a song that makes each volume of Dave's Way unique, different and enjoyable.  For this entry, that song was the island inspired, Nobody Knows.  While the instrumentals are enjoyably playful, the lyrics remind us to be respectful of others beliefs and embrace the inherent differences between us.

The uniqueness of Volume 5 doesn't stop there.  Brace yourself, there's even a history lesson!  The slightly twangy Federal Express documents the story of the 1953 Union Station train crash of the Federal Express. After researching the accident (I had to know the story behind it), I learned that Roger McNamee is not only an excellent lyricist, but also an excellent story musical story teller, capturing the details of the event to a T, capped off by a tasteful and expertly  executed train lap steel train whistle from Barry Sless,  If you're like me and want a little background about this unfortunate train wreck, click here.

In a truly fitting gesture for this entry, Pete Sears' Sweet Rosie is a beautifully written and accompanied narration whose lyrics tell the story of a couple who parts ways, thinking that down the road they will be able to reconnect years later.  It appears that this is not the case, which serves as a reminder to take advantage of every day, and to not pass up opportunities to express our thoughts and feelings, as we never know if those opportunities will ever present themselves again.

Both Volumes 5 and 6 of Dave's Way are full of lyrical lessons, all of which are such well written songs that they stand far above the other equally qualified songs contained with in.  Live to Love is yet another example of life lessons in song, reminding us that life is too short not to love our fellow man.  Lyrics are not only where Live to Love stands out.  Just like Federal Express, it sent to Google to make sure it wasn't a Grateful Dead cover.  Joke's on me, it's not.  It's just The Moonalice crew channels their inner Dead, proving yet again that their Grateful Dead roots are never too far away.  In fact, I'm teetering on the precipice of diving head first into the Dead catalog (a fact which will leave several members of Bootleggers Nation grinning from ear to ear).  Last but not least, In yet another let turn, the gang takes another unexpected left turn, with a surprisingly (almost) pop-rock inspired tune, Lost at Sea, which is yet another one of my favorites, just as much for its sneakily meaningful lyrics as its catchy, chair-dance worthy beat.  

Much like the four volumes before them, Volumes 5 and 6 of Dave's Way have a little something for everyone, from history, to life lessons, jams to rockin' tunes.   Each listening session is fun and unique, and I can say that I look forward to breaking out the final two volumes this coming week.

As usual, we'll be checking out some of the highlights from this week's review in this week's edition of Bootleggers Beware, streaming live at 10AM EST right here. and don't forget to check out the the first two installments of the series here, and here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Second Helping of Things Done Dave's Way

Welcome back for the second installment of my series of reviews of Moonalice's Dave's Way box set.  I came into the writing of last week's entry not really knowing what to expect, being only mildly familiar with the band as a whole.  Before beginning the listening process for this entry, I looked back at the first one, as it was pointed out that I may have been a bit too kind, throwing around a few too many compliments, and not pointing out the flaws.  It turns out I wasn't too nice. There are simply very few flaws to point out.

 Much like Volumes 1 and 2, the 3rd and 4th volumes are again about as different and unique as their disc sleeves.  I left the first two volumes in my rear view mirror (for the time being) knowing one thing: Expect the unexpected.  It is with that statement in mind that I began to look at Volumes 3 and 4 for of this set, and it didn't take long to discover the once again that the highlights were abound, except that where instrumental highlights seemed to dominate the first two volumes, the lyrical ability and versatility of the whole band took center stage.

Volume 3 of Dave's Way kicks off with an upbeat, rock n' roll tune, Fifteen Cadillacs. Ann McNamee makes  another appearance, with some somewhat unexpected lyrics about celebrities have too many cars, and her all-too-refreshing response:  She only needs one car.  Cadillacs is followed up by the chuckler of the set, Mr. Spaceman, a quite entertaining country-driven commentary of alien abduction, with spacey instrumentals to match.  

It's there that I was pleasantly surprised to see the band take off into yet another interesting direction, embarking on some wonderfully thoughtful and introspective songs about life, love, and making the most of every opportunity with those you love. The first of this series of songs that I have affectionately called "The Friendship and Love album" is Up in the Clouds, a wonderfully upbeat song in which Roger and Ann McNamee share the mic, with Roger describing the breadth of his love (assumedly for Ann!).  Clouds is followed, almost fittingly by Wish We Had, in which Ann McNamee reminds us to take advantage of every opportunity with those that we care for, that one can never tell when a missed opportunity can alter the path of life, leaving us only to wonder "What if..."

"Friendship and Love" spills over into Volume 4, almost as if no time had passed between the recording sessions for the two.  After asking if we are Tall Enough to fully appreciate the ride that is life, Pete Sears delivers my unquestioned highlight of the trio of songs (along with Dreams in the Middle and Silver Lining) that inspired the nickname for this series of songs. You & Me is a beautifully written and accompanied love song, that I must admit, caught me a bit by surprise during my first listen.  It was a little unexpected, but refreshingly different, and is the first jam band song that has ever triggered the following thought: "That would make a perfect wedding song", complete with a fittingly dance worthy instrumental outro that compliments Sears' gentle and loving vocals beautifully.  Silver Lining brings "Friendship and Love" to a close by combining thoughtful lyrics about support and devotion with a touch of Grateful Dead peeking through in the guitar melody and solos.

With half of Dave's Way now in the books, I'm continually surprised at the diversity of music that I've heard thus far, and I'm anxiously awaiting beginning to dig into the next two volumes of the set.  If they are anywhere near as good as the first four, my friends, we are in for a treat!

If you want to hear some of the highlights from this week's review, check out this week's edition of Bootleggers Beware, streaming live at 10AM EST right here, and don't forget to check out the the first installment of the series here, and get your free download of Moonalice's hit song 4:20 Somewhere.