It must be true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, at least it is in the case of Beachwood Sparks.
The Los Angeles band's perfect evocation of what the late, great Gram Parsons famously called "Cosmic American Music" -- an inspired blend of country, soul, folk, blues and rock -- on two albums at the turn of the millennium garnered plenty of critical acclaim at the time and have only increased in cultural stature since.
The group's last release was the Make The Cowboy Robots Cry EP 10 years ago and they split shortly thereafter, leaving fans, like myself, missing them ever since.
Well, at long last, Beachwood Sparks are back with a brand new album, The Tarnished Gold, which may just be their best work... and as any fan would attest, that's saying something. If you require proof, check out the gorgeous musical statement of purpose in the song "Sparks Fly Again."
While there are plenty of permutations of alt-country these days and those that plow Gram Parsons' fertile furrow often get the "American Music" blend right, the Beachwood boys' crop towers over that of their peers because they haven't forgotten the "Cosmic" part of their forebear's famous phrase.
That is to say that the Sparks' songs, especially beautiful and languid ballads like the new disc's "Nature's Light" and "Alone Together," are hypnotic and entrancing -- "country through a kaleidoscope" someone once said, and I can't say it any better.
Meanwhile, the band's heavenly harmonies and just a sprinkling of '60s psychedelia add to the overall mood the band creates and carries across the album's 43 minutes. It's the feeling of a warm summer breeze rustling your sun-bleached hair as you watch evening descend over the ocean -- California as you imagine The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield experienced it, but now just a wistful memory that flickers to life as you listen.
As the Sparks sing on the new album's sublime title track, "let it in, let it in."
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