Whatever faults the Possum Trot Orchestra may have on Harbor Road, songwriting isn't one of them. Susie Suraci and John Minton spent the time between the release of their fine self-titled 2005 album and the recording of this one to hone their craft and it shows. Each supplies a fistful of tracks, some of them downright gems. While they each have roots in folk and country, they reach way beyond those limits and borrow what is needed to make their song better.
Suraci hits her peak with country-rockin' The Content of Your News, which lyrically could have spanned subjects from true love to brutal murder in the swamps, but she opted instead for politics. A slam on megacorps, their takeover of the media and the idiot politicians who not only allowed it but promoted it, it bemoans the state of truth in this country and it ain't none too good (Sorry, but I have to dumb myself down a mite so the boneheads at Fox and in the White House can understand). Musically, it is as good as it gets, the choogling country-rocking beat giving way to excellent electronic effects at the bridge.
Minton stretches his style throughout, leaning a bit more toward 50s and 60s pop than on the band's first album. He outdoes himself on Winterlight, writing harmonies for Susie Suraci that match the light upbeat rhythm to perfection. The hook sounds familiar and though I can't put my finger on it, I don't care if it's lifted or not, Minton having folded it into his own folk/pop recipe just right for my ear.
The band itself, with the first album far behind them and the addition of mandolin player Dave Kartholl, progresses as well. Kartholl's mandolin is at times apt and at others key to the progress made. Suraci and Minton are their usual professional grade on their instruments. Rob Suraci, however, is leaps and strides beyond his last effort. His work on Blind Lemon Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues and Susie's Appetite makes you wonder why he is limited so much to bass and drums on most of the album, but when you play alongside Minton, well… In the end, the progress each has made has given the band a boost in credibility as a band. They are definitely coming into their own.
A pat on the back needs be given to Tom Tempel at Tempel Recording Studio as well. As button-pusher, he excels and should be afforded a "fifth man" status with the band. He definitely understands what Possum Trot is doing and magnifies the effect just enough.
The first time through this, I thought, okay, they've done it again. A solid effort. Repeated hearings, though, have me convinced that this is the jumping off point for bigger things. Today, Fort Wayne, tomorrow...?
Allow me a pre-emptive strike here. This band shouldn't even think about splitting up for at least three more albums, maybe more. As good as they are individually on this album, I believe that they reach a synergy as a band that they might not ever capture solo. Now that I've said it, let me put the rumor to rest. They are not splitting up. Fact is, they have only just begun.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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