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Lucid: A Dirt
by George Graham
(Independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/24/2015)
The jam band scene has grown to encompass quite a few different sounds and styles from the high-precision art-rock of Umphrey’s McGee to bluegrass from Railroad Earth, to some world beat from the String Cheese Incident. Jam bands also range from slick and nearly virtuosic to practically garage band material. This week we have a group from Upstate New York who in some ways harken back to the early jam band scene of the Grateful Dead, with a definite hippie atmosphere permeating their music but with a fair degree of eclecticism. The band call themselves Lucid, and their new recording is called Dirt.
Lucid was formed in Plattsburgh, NY, in 2003 they have performed mainly around Northern New York and Vermont, though they have toured more widely. Dirt is the sextet’s fourth studio album. In 2007, the band followed in the footsteps of a few other jam bands and started and continue to run an annual multi-artist music festival called “Backwoods Pondfest.” Lucid are primarily a live band. It’s apparent from their music on their new album that the group has played the tunes on the road for quite a while before going into the studio. Actually, it was probably into their basement, where they also recorded two of their previous albums. On their website, they describe their music as “Blues/Rock/Funk” but the band synthesizes that mixture in a number of interesting ways, and there is a fair portion of reggae in the mix as well. The large size of Lucid leads to different influences showing, sometimes funk, sometimes singer-songwriter style, and at others the older generation of jam bands. The instrumentation includes a sax player, one credited with percussion and harmonica, plus only one guitar, keyboards with a vintage sound, plus bass and drums. All but the drummer contribute to the vocals. There different lead singers throughout the album, presumably reflecting composing by different members, though the CD liner notes don’t mention who is who. As mentioned, there is a definite hippie vibe to the music, both instrumentally and lyrically, with some words about the environment and a song called Psychedelic Circus. Musically, the arrangements can be a little loose, sometimes veering from one direction to another stylistically, but they come off as honest, and exude a mood of good fun.
The generous, nearly-hour-long album leads off with a kind of love song called Cuerpo, the Spanish word for “body.” It can be a bit reminiscent of the Grateful Dead at times. <<>>
More interesting is a track called Black Smoke which gets into a funky groove with a little world-beat influence thrown in. It’s a good example of how the group’s sound can vary. <<>>
Yet another facet of Lucid comes out on a track called Skippin’, with a kind of folky aspect together with the band’s jam-band tendencies. <<>>
Psychedelic Circus is a tune which has an energetic mixture of styles that seem as if the band threw them into a blender, starting with the band members interacting with a chicken. <<>> Before the tracks goes from more conventional rock to some reggae plus a section influenced by rap. <<>>
By any measure of sound, Lucid could be called a jam band. But longest track on this CD is just six and a half minutes. The tune is called Blessed & Cursed. It’s mainly a story in the words, rather than an opportunity for the band to stretch out instrumentally. The lyrics are a curious blend of the philosophical with the slightly tongue-in-check. <<>>
The title track Dirt is another of the band’s ventures into reggae, while the lyrics are also in keeping with the Lucid’s appealing hippie tendencies. <<>>
Another notable track for its creative mixture of stylistic ingredients is Simmer On Down. The lyrics are straight out of the Woodstock era, though they can still be relevant. The band takes the musically setting through phases from doo-wop to reggae to more 1960s-era rock. <<>>
Even though the band self-describes themselves as blues, there is only one straight-out blues track on the album. Break a Man is a rather respectable blues-rock tune with lyrics to match. <<>>
The final regular track on the album is called Whoa Mama with more moments that can remind one of the Grateful Dead, along with the band’s tendency to slip into a reggae beat when they are so moved. <<>>
Dirt the new fourth album by the North Country New York six-member band Lucid is an enjoyable, though fairly lightweight album of jam-band music retro Grateful Dead influence, reggae and old-fashioned hippie sensibility both musically and lyrically, not to mention the way the band looks. Their music is fun, they are versatile, and creative in their blends of styles, which they pull off rather well. The band, though, can be a little loose at times on the album, in a likable way.
Our grade for sound quality is an “A-minus.” It does have a kind of home-studio sound, not being as slick as many records in terms of sonic clarity, but the dynamic range is a little better than average, with the volume compression not being too excessive.
There have been several interesting and notable jam band albums in the past year or so from genre leaders like String Cheese Incident, Moe. and Umphrey’s McGee. And the whole “retro” thing has become a pervasive presence on the scene with a strong stream of new recordings by groups who emulate styles of the past in the context of their original music. Lucid combine both of those with their fun retro jam-band music.
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