Do you remember Whiskeytown? An alt-country supergroup of sorts, the band was Ryan Adams' primary musical platform in the mid-1990s before the singer became, well, Ryan Fucking Adams. Though they never quite gained the notoriety of other same-genre contemporaries such as Uncle Tupelo or The Jayhawks, the band was one of the most influential Americana acts of its day and remains the darling of country-rock aficionados. Composed of four current UVM students, The Marigolds could be a bit young to recall Mr. Adams' original band. But I'm guessing Vermont's latest entry into the alt-country fold remember Whiskeytown. And fondly, at that.
Their latest self-titled release is actually a collection of the band's two previous full-length records, Buffalo and City Alone, as well as three tracks from a recently recorded EP. While it may seem odd for a band to release a "greatest-hits" album at such a tender age, The Marigolds have actually been around for a while. They formed as high school students in New Jersey before taking their act to the Americana-friendly climes of the Green Mountains. Those who liked Whiskeytown will be glad they did.
In the interest of not pussy-footin' around, I'm just gonna come right out and say this: The band's lead guitarist and primary vocalist, Jake Brennan, sounds like Ryan Adams. I don't mean that he reminds me of Ryan Adams. He sounds just like him. I'm not sure if it's contrived or merely how the dude naturally sings, but either way, the similarity is striking.
The record opens with the Brennan-penned tune "End of the Game," which could easily be a Pneumonia outtake. Continuing on a theme, the following track, "City Alone," shuffles along in a style reminiscent of Faithless Street. Doing a passable Caitlin Cary impression, fellow vocalist Johanna Hiller takes the reins on "Old Wood Stove," a bouncy, country-tinged number that recalls the pop-inflected Stranger's Almanac.
Despite their relatively prodigious output, The Marigolds are still a young band, and that is evident here. The members write good songs but seemingly have yet to fully develop their potential and hone a sound they can truly call their own. Musically, they are more than capable, but they could benefit from stepping outside their comfort zone. The album's seventh cut, "No Getting Around It," would be a good starting point — the song hints at the band's wealth of nascent talent and ingenuity.
Check out The Marigolds this Saturday at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge with Southern rockers Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit and The Whigs.