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Album review: 'Nostalgia'

by

Auld Lang Syne

‘Nostalgia’

Self-released

auldlangsyne.bandcamp.com


auldlangsyne_nostalgia_albumcover.jpg
Few songwriters can make existential crises sound as aesthetically beautiful and oddly optimistic as Timothy and Kathy Dick, the Arizona-via-Rochester couple behind the musical group Auld Lang Syne.

Throughout its 12-plus years of existence, the band has consistently written freshly melodic songs that draw from some of America’s richest musical traditions: blues, rock, and soul. Its newest full-length CD,“Nostalgia” (released on March 17) presents Auld Lang Syne as a polished roots rock duo that utilizes the knowing, mournful poetry of blues and folk music to recall a ’60s and ’70s pop sound that brilliantly synthesized rock, country, and soul.
This musical amalgam is best exemplified in the ballad “Not Doin Now,” in which the twangy inflections of pedal steel guitar mesh with piano bar harmonizations in an interplay that’s both tasteful and poignant. As a whole, the album’s instrumentation relies heavily on piano and Hammond B3 organ sounds, which had been increasingly more prominent in the band’s most recent Rochester shows of the past three years.

And from the first lines of the opening track, “Safeway,” Auld Lang Syne performs its signature tightrope-walk between nihilism and restless hope. Timothy’s soulful voice has a tone of ardent resignation, filtered through darkly introspective lyrics: “I’m just a bag of wind blowing through the parking lot of Safeway, twistin’, jivin’, twirlin’, I won’t stop.”



Timothy’s musical agility and skill in employing disparate vocal timbres are also on display. He’s always demonstrated an ability to sing phrases sweet and smooth, but there’s more snarling swagger on “Nostalgia.”

If there’s such a thing as “melodic growling,” he nails it — particularly on the standout title track, with its Motown-esque flow and classic rock arrangement. Honky-tonk gets some serious play, too, particularly when blues guitar meets southern rock on the delightfully sentimental “Before I Was Born.”

But while rock ‘n’ roll is a key component in Auld Lang Syne’s sound, an indispensable element throughout its discography has been folksy, harmony-rich duets with ethereal, at times wispy vocal tones (previously released songs such as “Tree on Fire,” After the Rain,” and “Wolf” are prime examples). The new album delivers with Kathy on lead vocals for the likes of “Calamity Jane,” “Unwind,” and the closing track “Irene Goodnight.”
“Nostalgia” feels like Auld Lang Syne’s first bona fide rock ‘n’ roll album. It also showcases Timothy at the height of his powers as an electric singer and proficient instrumentalist. The arrangements sprawls out with expressive abandon at times, but they’re also tethered to concise structures and intelligently crafted lyrics that imbue the songs with a sense of stability An ideal antidote for these uncertain times, “Nostalgia” is essential listening.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s music editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.