Wonderland Park 2016
Intelligent amusement for those who like their adventure jazzed up in all the right places.
Ensemble playing is guitarist Allen Hinds’ forte, but the soul-smeared licks he’s prone to deliver as a sidekick to the likes of Roberta Flack turn into something less expected when the veteran calls the shots in his own trio. Excelling in fusion and going beyond such a form, Allen and his friends offer a different, if entertaining and engaging experience on their first album.
There’s a country panorama painted into the record’s title track, whose cinematically reflective lines, given a slider caress and carefree twang are pregnant with adventure before the blues lead them astray for a bumpier ride, so guitar licks stumble over a sensual rhythm, the beat becoming genuinely transcendental in “Truth Be Told” where spaces between notes and otherworldly notions result in a delightful tension. Messing with the listener’s mind by sending tender oscillations on a stereo trip, opener “All Due Respect” gets gradually fleshed out in dynamic amplitude and replaces its elegiac, lounge-like reverence with a rock-tinctured roar – still dignified, yet menacing enough to throw caution to the wind and try to catch an ever-elusive riff. That’s why Hinds’ six strings always seem to be seeking a new tone and shift the shape of the tune time after time.
Surprises can’t be limited to a melody, though, so Peter Hastings’ bass and Chris Wabich’s drums engage in ska groove to roll “Bobby’s Big Wheel” towards rather hilarious dance moves which may pretend to be serious but gloriously fail to produce a long face, while jazzy smiles behind “Barron’s Crossing” ultimately manage to deliver the desired gravitas. Just as impressive, “Spittin’ Image” is where gracious picking and bottom-end swing could bring on a sort of closure if not for “A Far Cry” whose blues house a stately Hammond for the album to sign off in romantic manner and hint at future seasons in this park. Getting a pass is highly recommended.