It’s hard to know what type of tone to strike these days — whether a bath of anger is what’s called for or the cleansing spirit of solace is in order. Maybe the answer is that there are days for both. I’d like to think that the angst of 2020 was far, far from the minds that made High Up On The Mountain, when it was written and recorded. The debut LP from West Coast Cosmic comrades Pacific Range captures a certain strain of calm that’s been sorely missing from my life of late. The album is awash in the salt-scrubbed tones of California and ingrained with the unblemished invigoration of mountain air. While it might not be a West Coast concept, the band captures the aural equivalent of that perfect pitch of blue that comes through in Spring sky — the kind that chases away the clouds of winter, hung with the first tinge of warmth and the the promise of a break from the crushing despair of winter months. The current wave of Cosmic Americana that’s rolled through has oddly favored the East Coast (aside from Howlin’ Rain I suppose) and the bands inclusion in the sunshine sway of the sound feels like it fills a particular gap.
While many of the others are heavily dependent on the Crazy Horse and Little Feat axis, Pacific Range seem to be falling into a more Allman descendent strain, and in many occasions the works of Dicky solo. Sure, they pick up quite a few of the tangential vibes as well — the lesser knowns that found their way in the wake of the Dead, The Allmans and post-Caravanserai Santana. There’s shades of Help Yourself, Mountain Bus, and Turnquist Remedy all threaded through the album. The band trickles down the same tributaries that cut through the canyons and make them their own. There’s a boogie that drives High Up, but there’s something more at play here.
While there’s the familiar deep-seated sway that offers itself up to extended jams in the live setting, there is a tenderness that’s not as present in some of their contemporaries. “Boulevard Indigo,” has a mournful country-folk strain that hangs on the air like dew. “Guiding the Mast” sounds like its was sliced off of either of the last couple of Mapache albums, and its not surprising that the band’s Clay Finch does indeed show up as a guest player among the tracks offered up here. Pacific Range complicate the cosmic winds with their own dusting of bittersweet heartache. There’s plenty here that gives in to the groove but just as much that lets it linger down to a halt, letting the soft breeze suffice as just the right amount of movement. This one seems to have been lost in terms of deserving fanfare, especially out East, but its a necessary pickup in times needing a respite for sure.
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