(Self-released, digital download)
In her bio, Bardela rhythm guitarist and vocalist Cooie DeFrancesco describes music as a "lifelong companion and source of comfort." Alongside her list of influences, which range from Jimi Hendrix to Procol Harum to Rosetta Tharpe, she also nods to the disenfranchised musicians of color who lived on the outside of the mainstream music industry — a refreshing acknowledgment.
Bardela's lead guitarist and songwriter, Arty LaVigne, and bassist Jeff Barrows also share a lifelong practice and appreciation of music from the '60s. The Vermont band is a musical throwback to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Their debut EP, Sky, is a curated celebration of classic tone.
"Here in LA" kicks things off with a sunshiny, languid rhythm that suffuses Beach Boys tone with Jonathan Richman whimsy. The track is smoothly balanced, and the instrumentation is awash in lush reverb. The trio grooves together comfortably, as old friends should. Their music holds laid-back maturity: Bardela aren't trying to impress or redefine anything, but simply reminisce over an old collective dream.
Sky shifts into an eerie, bluesy Americana sound on "The Crow." The song has a dimly lit roadhouse swing. LaVigne's lead guitar is uncontrived and genuine — unlike some contemporary blues guitar riffs that sound more like a Gibson guitar demo video on YouTube. Layers of elegiac vocal harmonies intensify a sense of traveling a lonely desert highway tuned to AM radio.
"In the Country" is the EP's creative standout. A wide, ambient lead-guitar melody stretches out across a subdued rhythm section colored by a '90s Neil Young-style bass line. The instrumentation here almost reaches the War on Drugs' current interpretation of down-tempo Americana. If Bardela chooses to follow the sound of this track, rather than skip around from genre to genre, they could cultivate a style that appeals to the contemporary market's taste in rock nostalgia. However, an appealing aspect of Sky is the seeming lack of ambition toward mainstream success. Bardela play just for the joy of it.
The EP ends on "Country Comes to Town," another roadhouse-worthy tune that anyone craving a good old-fashioned feeling would enjoy drinking a pint to. More upbeat than the preceding songs, here Bardela demonstrate their function as a dance band and close on an energetic high note.
Stream Sky by Bardela at bardela.com. The band plays on Saturday, November 25, at Smitty's Pub in Burlington.