Supraluke, 'Songs for the Great Blue Heron' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Album Review

Supraluke, 'Songs for the Great Blue Heron'

By

Published August 3, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Supraluke, Songs for the Great Blue Heron - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Supraluke, Songs for the Great Blue Heron

(Self-released, CD, digital, vinyl)

The Strangefolk diaspora continues to generate some interesting offshoots. Formed at the University of Vermont in 1991, the Burlington jam band spent that decade becoming one of the biggest regional acts in the genre. They even scored Chic's Nile Rogers to produce their 2000 album, A Great Long While.

The 2000s brought changes for Strangefolk, as cofounder and front person Reid Genauer left to form Assembly of Dust. Though Strangefolk are officially on hiatus, the original lineup still plays together at its Garden of Eden festival and other occasions. For the most part, however, the best way to hear the music of Strangefolk these days is through band members' various side projects.

Which brings us to Supraluke — Strangefolk drummer Luke Smith's first turn as a singer-songwriter — and his psychedelic-leaning folk album, Songs for the Great Blue Heron. Recorded with producer Ben Collette at Tank Recording Studio in Burlington, the album's 11 tracks form an impressive, cohesive debut.

A strong thread of nature worship runs throughout, almost as if Smith were offering a prayer to the beauty of his surroundings. Opener "Blessings" is full of tranquil chord progressions over a gentle, shuffling beat as Smith sings "Float me down the river / Roll me to the deep blue sea / You'll see." His delivery is not unlike a monk intoning holy words.

The theme continues in "Circles of Sound," a track that hits a strange zone similar to "Octopus's Garden" by the Beatles: part quirky folk rock, part drug-induced kids' song.

Smith creates or records the majority of the sounds on Songs for the Great Blue Heron, which include water and wind; he taught himself to play guitar during the pandemic. He showcases both versatility and a clever ear for a melody. Plenty of Strangefolk compatriots pop in to help out, as well, including cofounder and guitarist Jon Trafton and bassist Erik Glockler.

Smith's songwriting is more sophisticated than one might expect from a debut. While the album drags a bit when Smith pushes into jammier, less interesting territory — as on "When You're Through" — those moments are far outweighed by trippy, pastoral folk jams such as "Hoot" and full-on indie rockers such as "Hard to Say."

Though he doesn't necessarily have a powerful voice, Smith does well as a singer with a '90s indie rock kind of delivery, a bit like Matthew Sweet. Indeed, Songs for the Great Blue Heron feels more indebted to that style, along with '70s folk rock, than anything in the jam band oeuvre.

Sonically, it's a fabulous record. Collette and Smith went for a classic production style, full of warmth and taste. They bathe Smith's songs in layers of psychedelic swirl when called for ("Meet You") and work in nature sounds on others ("Home Again"). In an interview with jambands.com, Smith said he set out to make a record that sounded like the classic albums of his childhood. "Ideally," he said, "anyone looking for that classic vinyl-based experience ... will appreciate the psychedelic soundscapes we've created."

By and large, he has succeeded. Songs for the Great Blue Heron is an intriguing and pleasantly trippy record with some promising songwriting. Listen to it at supraluke.bandcamp.com.