Dan Gallardo 'Hickory'- Clubhouse

From the opening moments of the first song , Down in the Valley, you know you’re into something good. The fiddle, Dobro and mandolin sit over a solid rhythm section topped by a strong vocal from Gallardo. This is as fine a blend of acoustic and electric roots music as you might wish. Gallardo’s songs are linear stories that speak of people, places and personal relationship politics. The album was produced, engineered and mixed by David Pinkston, who also appears as one of the guitarist as well as adding pedal steel. He and Gallardo have surrounded them with a tight and attentive set of musicians who, in the guest category, include Rob Ickes, Guthrie Trapp, Randall Bramblett and Mickey Raphael with a set of players who likely constitute regular contributors to Gallardo’s music; they usually work under the name How Far West.

There is a variety of moods and sounds to be found here from the sax in Midnight Sound that has a feel of a late night reflection. Banks of the Mississippi and Ophelia, We Cry (Ode to Levon Helm) should not displease fans of the fabled drummer and his former band. The North Dakota Blues is a standout, a pacy song that deals with the story of a gun toting gang who roamed that territory in the days before the west was entirely free of wildness. A Cup of Rain is much sadder and features some subtle piano and pedal steel which underline the sentiment. Angel on the Dance Floor has a beat in keeping with the song’s self-explanatory title. Another song touched with a certain sadness is This Time which uses Raphael’s harmonica to good effect with the pedal steel and guitar. The closing song of the thirteen (lucky for this listener) Pearls, is another set of lyrics that seems to dwell on the unhappy reality of some false expectations and making the best of what comes. 

Despite the at times, sorrowful nature of some of the lyrics, the album is an uplifting and rewarding collection of Americana related tunes that finds Dan Gallardo, on his fifth album, at the top of his game. He deservedly garners more of the critical praise he has received for his previous albums and, given it’s release on Clubhouse, this part of the world should find him gaining new fans here too.