Don Gallardo – Hickory

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Americana is still a new direction for me and I accepted the offer to review Don Gallardo’s Hickory with interest. From the opening chords of “Down in The Valley” this album had me hooked to the point that it felt wrong to fill the silence left by the closing notes of the darkly complex “Pearls”. Having spent 45 minutes immersed in masterful melody, thoughtful lyrics, and honeyed vocals it would be sacrilegious to jump back to New Country no matter how good a playlist Chris Country Radio has! Thankfully, as this is Don Gallardo’s 4th album, it seems that there is a lot more for me to discover.

The Americana label can suggest an air of years gone by, but Gallardo’s sound and storytelling finds contemporary ground that has still it’s roots in American folk music but with added elements of 70’s rock, and some country twang all of which are threaded with a laid-back west coast vibe. Credit should be given to producer David Pinkston (who has worked with Marshall Tucker Band, Linda Ronstadt, Gretchen Peters to name but a few). Gallardo’s vocals are clean and instrumentation and production are light and well tended; the result is really quite exquisite.

Amongst influences Gallardo cites Neil Young, Gram Parsons and Tom Petty, and I can certainly hear their impact. Listening, I am also reminded of Simon and Garfunkel, The Eagles and at times the intensity of Jeff Buckley.

Hailing from Northern California and having spent years cultivating his career on the west coast, Gallardo moved to Nashville 8 years ago and whilst there are Country influences, Hickory resonates with a Californian sound, particularly in the opening tracks “Down in the Valley” and “Diamonds and Gold”. Both have that easy flowing vibe and both focus on Gallardo’s vocals with instrumentation given the lightest of touch by some of the best session musicians in the business.

Still maintaining the West Coast air, “Carousel” a song that is faster paced than the first two, takes on a slightly different feel that puts me in mind of Simon and Garfunkel.

“Midnight Sounds”, “When The World Wakes Up” and “Angel on the Dance Floor” create a more contemporary mood and I am reminded of UK-singer songwriter Badly Drawn Boy. With lyrics like “I can ride out the storm, I can steady the weather” and ‘I’m always losing my mind, sometimes I’m two steps behind”, I am drawn to the stories with their easy listening percussion. “When The World Wakes Up” includes a pleasing sound of steel and the saxophone in “Angel on the Dance Floor” is a welcome surprise.

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