Jam band albums can be a tricky thing – live performance rewards inspired explorations of the music, and sometimes a band can capture that magic in the studio. But even jam stalwarts such as Phish have a hard time pulling it off. And though The Workshy are gifted improvisers, they’ve chosen to focus on songwriting and structure, and, well, make an album of songs.
Recorded at The ARK in Ames, “You Are Here” sounds professional, while capturing inspired performances. The songs show off the band’s diversity, too, which is nice because they have an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and many other music genres.
The Hunter Thompson tribute “Stockton” sounds like a chase scene in a Western, and “Sol” is a tribal, Afrobeat influenced tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a Euforquestra album (and may actually be a nod to them, as The Workshy have played a number of shows with them). “100th Green Butterfly” is a tour de force of musical styles, a lush instrumental that jumps from Eastern guitar melodies to a Russian-sounding bridge, while employing a funky organ sound and phased guitars. On “Sideways,” singer Brant Williams sounds like Donald Fagen at times, and there are great time signature jumping guitar riffs, along with a Zappa-esque bridge section.
There are a lot of pieces at work here, but they’re all used to create something larger that really is cohesive, all those hours spent creating things spontaneously on stages being distilled down into great arrangements that surprise at times in just the right ways (like the sound of waves crashing in “Jetavana Grove”), but always fit just right in the arrangements of the songs. The band are also highly underrated when it comes to vocal harmonies – they’re subtle but gorgeous in spots.
“You Are Here” was released digitally awhile back, and the band has just recently released the physical CD copy. You can get a copy at Where It’s At or The Vinyl Café at Ames, or from the band’s show with Mountain Sprout at DG’s Taphouse this Sunday, April 8th.