West of Next continue their shapeshifting of roots genres into an original vision on their second album. Music from an era that hasn't happened yet. Classic genres like rock, western swing, honky tonk, zydeco, salsa, blues, bop, celtic music, surf, et al are the inspiration for music that is familiar and new at the same time. The instrumental side of Surf Music-Ventures, Chantays, Safaris featured two guitars, bass, and drums and countless rock bands have used the same lineup. The "twin guitar" tradition dates back to the 1930's with Bob Wills and many bands have used that sound through the ensuing decades. West of Next takes that Allman Brothers style sound and gives it a new treatment. Sometimes the two guitars and bass are playing three different counterpoint melodies, and the more conventional two part parallel guitar lines use touches of jazz harmony.
Like Steely Dan. the rockier tunes of West of Next are often jazzy, rather than punk simplicity. But simple songs are in the band's repertoire as well. The closest model is the later Beatle albums where many song types are all mixed together. The result is a musical journey incorporating surprise and variety. On this collection of new music, the band has revamped their sound with a new primary singer, Lillian McLeod, an accomplished actress and singer and old friend of David Shapireau, the composer of this music. In addition mandolin and piano add to the basic "surf bop" sound. Fans of the band have said that if Frank Zappa had written country music, it might sound like West of Next's country tunes. The quirkiness and irony and non-cliche guitar reminds some listeners of Richard Thompson.
This Sacramento based band was formed about three and a half years ago. Still to be discovered by a wider audience is unique music that honors the past while looking forward. Many of the great genres developed in the same way. Old time string band music, gospel singing, and jazz solos all blended together when Bill Monroe invented bluegrass. Ray Charles put secular words to gospel music and R & B was born. Old acoustic blues added the electric guitar, at first a swing instrument primarily, and Chicago Urban blues shook the house. That sound mixed with country and we got rockabilly and early rock and roll. Bob Dylan took serious poetry and folk music and a new type of songwriting emerged. When he added electricity and drums the world heard folk rock for the first time. English lads heard american blues and rock and Dylan and gave the world an amazing mixture of different rock approaches, including jazz influenced progressive rock. Then there's fusion, rock rhythms and instrumental jazz virtuosity thrown into the blender. On and on, music changes. West of Next is in that tradition. Roots music is an authentic expression of regional life styles. A listener can tell the difference between artifical pop music created for commercial purposes, and music that expresses the feelings and lives of a community. West of Next tries to take the vitality of the past and add a new slant to these magical creations of mostly lower class people, and often oppressed people. There's deep feelings to these old genres, and still today we see the folk process continues. Hip-hop and rap are an absolutely authentic expression of a distinct world, and could only have come originally from particular circumstances. Certainly there are talented rich people, but it's difficult to think of a roots style of the rich, nothing against them, just seems to be the case. Even Broadway style songs were largely the creation of immigrant Jews. The compositions on Surf Bop Stories have all been written with a consciousness and respect for these remarkable contributions from everyday people. That's the ball game, stories.