By Brian Rademaekers
Step into the living room of the North Lawrence Midnight Singers, a pleasant little five-piece who got their start in Northern Liberties last year and have largely since scattered to far-off places like Fishtown and South Philly.
In their spacious and welcoming parlor, you might find Roy Orbison humming along or Jerry Garcia warming up to the chords of Friend of the Devil, while Robbie Robertson plays around with a tune on the ivories.
Surely, various members of the Traveling Wilburys also come and go at their pleasure, as do Neil Young and his pal Elvis Costello . . . all leaving bits of harmony and legendary lyricism behind now and then.
Perpetually locked into the witching hour, it’s a place with the easy good nature of a glass of whiskey and the hazy warmth of a roaring fire.
Yes, the Singers’ debut release, North Lawrence Midnight Singers . . . And that old time living room sound, takes in a broad, unabashed and glorious smattering of classic American rock ’n’ roll greats.
Recorded with Bill Moriarty at Kensington’s American Diamond Studio, the eight-track \"mini LP\" also has the big, bright clarity of sound established on the recent releases of Philly greats like Dr. Dog, Man Man and Make a Rising.
The band was founded by Jamie Olson, who launched the group after his well-received Cordalene outfit dissolved in 2007 after a seven-year run that saw them play with the likes of My Morning Jacket and Weezer.
Taking on guitar, vocals and the occasional Vox, Olson is joined by drummer and fellow ex-Cordalene member Joe Boyle, bassist Tim Meachem, Todd Zamostien on guitar and Vox, and Mike Milach on keys.
Together, the boys create a rich, rollicking take on old-fashioned rock, rolling together the big, booming harmonies of Buddy Holly with the winding guitar work of American Beauty and the witticisms of Bob Dylan.
Album starter 100 Percent Mobile launches straight off with clean, crisp 1970s-style guitar riffs, followed by Olson’s mellow vocals that at times call to mind a marriage of George Harrison and Roy Orbison.
While a palpable 1970s rock vibe is channeled all over, pop-hook filled numbers like Sentimental Me combine that nostalgia with modern guitar licks that might have been dreamed up by Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley.
Showing a range of ability and reference not often displayed, they also can dip into weepy, eloquent pieces like the slowed-down Forever Follow the Night, which summons Dylan circa Desire and Street Legal. All in all, …that old time living room sound is an album that — at just under 30 minutes — acts as a shimmering showcase of the talent possessed by the North Lawrence Midnight Singers. And it invariably leaves you craving more, hanging on the edge to see just where they’ll take it after their introductory ramblings.
Here they wear their influences on their sleeves, and manage to execute their handcrafted homage with impressive skill that assures greater things to come.