Company's debut 'Reachin' for the sky
10/4/02, Ben Erwin, Daily Eastern News, Charleston, IL
Deftly mixing elements of blues, jazz and rock with intricate arrangements and free-formed improvisational jamming, Chicago-based quartet Family Groove Company shines on its infectious debut "Reachin."
After logging months of touring in L.A. clubs, Family Groove Company entered a recording studio in midsummer and emerged with the genre-bending, funky "Reachin."
Branding Family Groove Company with one particular label would only serve to cheat the musicians, as the band's sound weaves effortlessly through stylistic changes during the course of any given song.
The album's opener, "Agenda" is a skittering piano groove which changes courses and speeds at a moment's notice, with a jamming midsection over which funky guitar licks bubble atop the song's dense gyrations. Likewise, the slicing, guitar-driven funk of "Just Like I Planned" is tinged with droning organ and bluesy, musing lyrics which all serve to coalesce in a rhythm tight enough to make James Brown proud.
Bass-driven numbers like "Christy," with its thumping bass line walking seamlessly through a churning groove, complemented by Family Groove Company's drum-tight rhythm section, seem to characterize the band's style well. Similarly, on "Flowers for Gisa," bassist Janis Wallin drives a song which builds and recedes along side harmonized falsetto vocals.
Even on poppier numbers like "I'd Sing," Family Groove Company builds a hooky foundation on which Wallin and guitarist Adam Lewis are free to trade licks, continually building upon the song's solid foundation. Possibly the best examples of the band's pop sensibilities however is the piano-laden "Interesting Changes" which is as "poppy" as an intricately arranged, seven minute opus can get.
With the bluesy, jazz-inflected "One's On the Way," the band crafts a stutter-stepping groove which allows each band member to shine.
The album's closing track, the at once both trippy and jazzy, almost haunting, "The Rattler" stands as the best testament on "Reachin" to the band's ability to play with incredibly high musicality while still crafting catchy tunes. With its free-formed feel and one of the album's best guitar licks taking center stage, "The Rattler" sounds akin to an acid-tinged church hymn at times while rollicking with unbridled funk at others.
As a whole, Family Groove Company is an incredibly tight band with immense musical talent. With an unfaltering rhythm section driving time and tempo changes and guitar and piano floating effortlessly above the din, "Reachin" is a stellar debut record.
The only question is whether the band's amorphous sound can appeal as much with record labels as it can with audiences.
"Reachin" is available through the group's web site at www.familygrooveco.com.