Some Assembly Required
It’s hard to believe that Some Assembly Required is only the third studio album from Assembly of Dust. It feels like they’ve been around forever but the band only formed in 2002 at Cornell University. Since then they’ve been making the rounds of jam-band festivals, building a following of faithful fans and making the kind of friends they can invite into the studio. That’s what AOD has done on their new release. Each of the 13 songs feature a guest appearance by luminaries of the genre from seasoned veterans to relative newcomers.
Richie Havens brings immediate gravitas to the band’s endeavors on “All That I Am Now.” The track differs from anything on AOD’s first couple of albums, leaning more towards a contemporary folk attitude both in its measured structure, pop elements and contemplative lyrics. The band breaks back more to its jamming roots rock on the second track “Pedal Down.” Zach and Andrew Gabbard of Buffalo Killers bring their grungy rock influence to the session and the result is more raw then the opening track. Dave Grisman adds his melodic mandolin to the front-porch ballad “Black Coffe” in much the same way Jerry Douglas contributes to the bluegrass flavored “Leadbelly.”
Lead singer and songwriter Reid Genauer plays with his vocal style, often altering his vocals with reverb or playing off of guest singers Martin Sexton on “Revelry” or Theresa Andersson on the subdued “Straight.” Unlike those earlier releases AOD’s songs are more traditional, both in structure and arrangement. “Light Blue Lover,” which features Grace Potter on backing vocals, is all pop in production quality with strings and acoustic instruments. One exception is the densely produced “Borrowed Feet” featuring John Scofield on guitar. Two kings of jam band land, Mike Gordon of Phish and Keller Williams, pop up but neither are used in the manner you might expect. With all the guest power on the record if there is any criticism to be offered it is that the guests are so underplayed that, with the exception of Haven, you could miss their input. They are included as members of the band and not for spotlight moments.
If you’re looking for a jam out moment you’re not going to get it here. Some Assembly Required is a different kind of record for the band as they step out into more standard folk pop territory.