Had I been alive in the 1930s, I'm pretty sure everything would have sounded like this album by Old Californio. Westering Again is the soundtrack to the outdoorsy adventurous life that I'm sure I would have led back then. The Pasadena-area band has crafted a groovy album whose songs repeatedly creep back into my head every now and then. I also like them because they love California as much as I do, apparently. Yay.
Mother Road, which kicks off the record, is a rollicking (I don't even like the word 'rollicking', but this song really is just that), bouncy tune with lazy vocals and a gritty little guitar lick.
Listening to the songs on this album takes me into almost a different realm of consciousness, one where I'm a rugged frontiersman sifting for gold in a river or strolling around some dusty trails with my trusty dog at my side.
Riparian High, which follows Mother Road, has a smooth horn section to complement the folk-ish vibe that carries out the rest of the song. That's something I really like about Old Californio - they're not just your typical folksy indie band; the songs have their own style, as the horns almost give the song somewhat of a Mariachi vibe, without being as frenetic as Mariachi songs tend to be.
City Lines has a country twang to it that the first two songs don't really have. Its overall feel is pretty country-ish, and it works for me, even though I despise country music. The verses almost remind me of a countrified version of a Sister Hazel song (and that's a compliment, as I'm a fan of Sister Hazel as well).
Westering Again was recorded very well, as the guitars are crisp, the instrumentation tight, and the vocals as smooth as they could be for this type of music. I haven't seen Old Californio in concert, but I assume they throw some jamming into the set, as the songs on this record indicate to me the possiblity that they would be able to jam out on some slick country-folk-guitar licks for a while. I bet their shows are really fun.
Just Like Joseph Campbell is a highlight, with another upbeat rhythm propelled by a solid bass line. I've heard the phrase "let's take that bass for a walk" before, and while I'm not entirely sure what that means exactly, it sounds like it applies to this song, as the bass line in this tune is constant and driving.
One thing I really like about this album is how they don't really ever slow down too much. Old Californio is great at the up-tempo folk jams, and so when they slow it down a little bit (From the Mouth of Babes) it doesn't bring the album down, instead it provides a bit of a nice relaxing moment filled with more rich melodies.
Warmth of the Sun is another gem, with tambourines, layered guitar work, and a slow build that leads into a steady rhythm that will make even the most stubborn folk music-hater bob his or her head (hopefully).
California Goodness, the last track, is a gentle breeze of a tune that name drops Truckee (my favorite stop on the way to Lake Tahoe for vacation) and has a beautiful, light harmonica solo toward the end. It’s a great way to end the record.
At times, Old Californio reminds me of another great band called the Stone Foxes. From the Bay Area, the Stone Foxes play an irresistible hybrid of blues/rock/folk that they carry out incredibly well. I've seen them a couple times in LA, and they put on fantastic shows. If they ever played with Old Californio I would stop at nothing to get to the show, as I know it would be a lot of fun.
In closing, Old Californio's record Westering Again is a solid gem of an album. I hadn't been aware of the band before I was sent the album for review, but I'm glad I took on the task. I apparently just missed seeing them in LA this week, which is unfortunate, but I'll be sure to check them out next time they come around. If the album is any indication, their live show should be just as memorable.