It’s not like Greg Cartwright is new to the game of rock n’ roll, but he manages to continuously add the tiniest tweaks to his sound, crafting solid album after album. This time around, we find Greg joined by Coco Hames of the Ettes to form The Parting Gifts. Their new release, Strychnine Dandelion, is all over the map, but it lives in a place of nostalgic sound, harkening back to the 60s, twisted through a bit of gritty garage influences.
Pressing play on this LP will probably excite you, as it should, but don’t let “Keep Walkin” fool you. Jangling garage pop with a catchy chorus definitely makes this song a winner, yet you’ll find that as the record unfolds this song is sort of a one-off, as its the most modern sounding track on Strychnine Dandelion. Still, the more you proceed with your listening, the more other gems will unfold before you.
Cartwright channels his inner Tom Waits on “Strange Disposition” scratching at his throat to release his vocals over the piano-laden track. As the guitar drifts in and out of focus, you clearly get the sense that Greg’s in full control of his gifts at this point in his career. “Shine” really wins you over with the couplet of “I’ve been saving my best lines/for when her eyes meet mine.” Sonically, the song definitely gives a nostalgic nod to classic country-tinged rock of yesteryear. Guitar soloing adds an extra bit of class to the track as well.
Let’s not forget that Coco Hames plays the foil to Cartwright in The Parting Gifts. Abundant nostalgia leads to the group to calling upon the girl-group sound during “Born to be Blue.” It’s a subdued track, with the focus on Hames as she finally takes the lead all on her own, while Gret coos some monosyllabic sounds in the background. She furthers this sound on “Sleepy City” where her pitch definitely has a sultry innocence that makes the tinkering piano seem obsolete, instead letting the listener be drawn in by her voice, which has hints of a classier Neko Case. We shouldn’t forget that her role throughout Strychnine Dandelion also works great juxtaposed against Greg’s.
The closing moments of Strychnine Dandelion don’t make following the musical shifts less enjoyable. The records title track, “Strychnine Dandelion” has a twirling in the clouds arrangement, using strings to further the sound of The Parting Gifts, while that tiny hint of piano allows Cartwright to control his slight warble to great effect. And then Coco returns to close it all out for us with “This House Aint a Home.” She’s got a bit more of a country chanteuse on this number, once again displaying the band’s ability to wander all over the map, musically speaking. Up to this point, the band has covered a great deal of territory, from country rocker to barroom ditty to garage pop, giving us all a bit of everything we love, in both current and past sounds. That factor, along with the fact that they offer up 15 tracks, allows listeners to traverse the annals of musical history, done to perfection by The Parting Gifts.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/partinggiftskeepwalkin.mp3]
Download: The Parting Gifts – Keep Walkin [MP3]