Pianos and horns, man! The Great Divide self-titled album is a stunner from start to finish. I stumbled across them perusing the weekly releases on Spinner a few weeks back and was just shocked to hear them. It’s a refined sound that will be welcome to fans of the finer days of Paul Macartney or the more recent salvos of Jim Morrison. They are a real treat indeed.
The opener “Ain’t No Roads” has the full monty, including a backing choir complete with handclaps and harmonies. This is a particularly intriguing form of “pop” music that doesn’t have a safe place within any genre but might best categorized as “pop soul.” In any event, it’s the kind of music that will have people dancing and asking, “who is THIS band?” because they feel very familiar, yet, fresh at the same time. That, friends, is why you’re hearing them here.
“Moorie” brings more of that pop soul sound. In this track, the lead singer sounds a lot like John Legend. The lyrics are interesting, as well, focusing on living a laidback life. Basically, life is what it is so try to do your best. “Just remember all the love that’s in you is in me.” It’s an awesome symbiotic spirituality, a la the Transcendentalists, that we shouldn’t just go around misusing people because we’ll go to see “Moorie,” an offhand reference to the bestseller Tuesdays With Morrie, perhaps, but misspelled?
The opening guitars on, “Holiday” might be my favorite part on the entire album. The simple message, that we all could use a holiday, is pretty sweet. We all, basically, could use someone like you. It’s a love song in sheep’s clothing. It’s kind of a genre-blending song, most heavily influenced by a sort of horn-infused alt rock sound. If the vocals weren’t so obviously gospel/soul the track could really fit into a wide variety of genres.
As I try to describe the other tracks on the album, I find myself thinking the same thoughts. Horn-driven soul music… while some of it has heavier piano than others, it is for the most part a pop soul album with overwhelmingly positive/love songs. It is, in some ways, the antithesis of a lot of the sullen broken-hearted folk music we feature on this site. That said, songs like “Hold Me in Your Arms” and “Shine” are uplifting “get stuff done” music that is fun for the whole family (in the least cliché way possible).
The guitar intro and harmonic vocals on “Fast Train” made me stop in my musical tracks. It has an almost pop-country sound, but is extremely well executed. “I need a fast train… to roll me home.” This song blends nostalgia and images of “home” together into a softly relatable song. It might not make it into a lot of honky tonks, but it will certainly make a lot of people reflect on distance, love, and home. It’s a good song for conjuring emotions.
The horns on “It’s Alright” are worth the price of admission. The song sounds like it could have come off of a Chicago record in the mid 70s. The horns seem to actually climb as they take their jazz runs in throughout the song. “Step Back” has an angry blues edge to it that seems like it crept over from a B.B. King album. Lead singer Teddy Grossman’s vocals are just as good on this track as some of the others that are heavily soul influenced. It’s really a fantastic mix on the album. The tight vocals on “Easy Chair” are, again, reminiscent of Chicago. It’s a great change of pace for the end of the album.
This is a high quality album from beginning. This is the kind of music to throw on the player of choice for a party or to chill out at home. There are some jam/dance tracks on the album, but it is a nice mix throughout. Fans of classic pop, soul, and even gospel music should give Great Divide a chance.