You could say that Promised Land Sound's self-titled full-length debut refers to an era in rock 'n' roll that was already referential, but that would tell only half the story. What's most interesting about the Nashville-recorded country rock of Promised Land Sound is how artfully the early 1970s sonic reference points have been modified with doses of garage rock. Promised Land Sound harks back to an era that was influenced by The Band's Music From Big Pink and Gram Parsons' GP, and the group plays with post-punk panache. Promised Land Sound is rock 'n' roll, which means the music is cheerfully snide even when it borders on pastiche.
Promised Land Sound came together after Virginia-born bassist and singer Joey Scala and guitarist Sean Thompson played in a Nashville group called Turkeys. The band also featured Those Darlins singer Jessi Darlin, along with pedal steel player Luke Schneider and drummer Jamin Orrall. Scala and Thompson had already played in PUJOL, and Scala joined another Nashville band, Denney and the Jets, in which his brother Evan played drums.
"Originally, we had the idea for the band because me and Sean were doing a band called Turkeys," says Joey Scala. "That was when we first started writing songs together, and then they weren't able to do that as often as we wanted to do it. So we just ended up writing more songs, and me and Evan kept playing in Denney."
The songs on Promised Land Sound make it clear that the Scala brothers, along with co-writers Thompson and keyboardist Ricardo Alessio, have attended to such monuments of early '70s rock as Brinsley Schwarz's Despite It All and Nervous on the Road, as well as to the work of Faces. In the '70s, rock had already undergone a crisis of identity that The Band's early music helped to ease, but Brinsley Schwarz took that crisis as a joke, and played in a style influenced by Parsons, New Orleans R&B and Nashville country — not to mention the guitar-keyboards approach of The Band itself.
Promised Land Sound adds Alessio's keyboards to guitar-driven riff tunes, as on "Wandering Habits," which features a droll rhythm-guitar figure. The song works in the hapless mode of Nervous on the Road — Joey Scala sings about being on the road so long that his home has disappeared — but the musical conception is more minimalist and less country than in most of Brinsley Schwarz's work.
"When making music, you draw from your influences, and most of our influences are either country-based or psychedelic-based," Joey Scala says. Promised Land Sound pulls in those influences: "Money Man" is Charlie Rich-style blues about unlimited spending power, while "For His Soul" sounds like The Byrds circa Byrdmaniax. Powered by Evan Scala's idiosyncratic drumming, the tracks rock out. Maybe their next record will reference, say, McGuinness Flint and Dallas Frazier — you never know where influences will lead.
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