Album Review by Bill Copeland
Creamery Station fly high, play big on Story To Tell album
By Bill Copeland on November 9, 2023
Creamery Station just recently dropped this festive and lively album Story To Tell. This adventurous album runs on an abundance of care and energy. Every well placed instrumental line and vocal phrase is one of many moving parts that reflect many influences inserted into a big flowing sound The Connecticut jam band keeps the party going strong by letting made shades of modern American music into their blend.
Opening cut “Crazy Night” puts an interval of trippy guitar notes from Jim Kader in the center of this up tempo jam piece. That keeps everything spinning around a catchy axle. It gives a sweet, racing harmonica line a pole to move its pretty melody around. Jon Truelson’s keyboards and a spicy rhythm section with percussionist Michael Ryan are all part of the speedy dance and this one grabs the listener right at the club entrance and pulls him onto the dance floor.
Title track “Story To Tell” benefits from a twisty, weepy harmonica. Flavoring this piece with a winsome, easygoing vibe, that instrument indicates a positive theme and an inviting, festive quality. With such a pleasant jaunt beneath him, a vocalist only needs to cruise the peaks and valleys of the main melody line. He doesn’t need to belt or emphasize, just follow the unobtrusive path of instrumentation. This song takes the listener somewhere special with its use of involving guitar phrase, plenty of rhythmic notes, and a smooth assertion of voice.
“Moth To A Flame” takes things slower. A country piano line and a rustic, honkytonk harmonica by Don DeSefano provide a home on the range feel. That piano sprinkles its sweet roots notes like a misty rain and the harmonica makes on the feel the songwriter’s forlorn emotions, having only one central focus in his life. The lead vocal here is plumb full of twangy timbre and chirpy pluck. One gets a sense of the rural parts of America with each of his assertive vocal lines. He reminds of The Band in both his delivery and in his feel for the song’s sensibility.
“Wishing Well” gets a lot of mileage from its funky groove. Drum fills move the feet with their well placed hits. A bass guitar motivates the hip to sway with its lilting motions. Over that motivating pull, the song is flavored with gracious swipes of edgy harmonica, sweeping organ chords, and a sweet vocal. The singer, with his soft timbre and laid back approach, drifts pleasantly between a shifting lead guitar phrase and a tasteful start-stop harmonica line. The way the singer cruises merrily over the bits and pieces pastiche creates a contrast that makes both levels of this song so appealing.
“Under The Maho Tree” moves to an uncoiling Alex Wu bass guitar line, keeping the groove in a breezy island motion, giving a platform for the lead singer to dance around the open spaces. He keeps his neo hippie groove footloose and fancy free. Mirroring that airy freedom is a lead guitar phrase that dances through the meters with a touch of edge and a bit of a bounce. Twitchy, the lead guitar hopscotch give a push so the other instruments and vocalists, when its their turn, to make their own lighted heart dance across the meters. Peppered with exotic percussion touches, this one has plentiful touches to make the rhythm larger than life and completely involving.
A country flavored harmonica line colors beautifully “In The Streets Of San Francisco,” a neo-hippie vibe song. Traveling along a shuffle groove and complete with a sweet Dylan Kader mandolin line and an feisty guitar thrown in for good measure, this one travels a polite jaunt. Amicable, generous, and inviting, the lead vocal makes one feel involved in what is sure to be an upbeat singalong in this band’s live shows.
“It ain’t Easy” moves to subtle faux island vibe. A lush lead vocal moves its thickness over brief, brittle notes from the upper register instruments, creating a perky underpinning for such a warm, full voice. A scratchy harmonica bursts into action and mirrors the same wash of voice as the singer. This study in contrasts engages the listener with its two sided in one song approach. It’s like a soft ice cream with plenty of mints, jimmies, and chocolate chips within.
“More Than It Seems” takes all of Creamery Station’s vocal and instrumental qualities and stuffs them all into one rolling burrito. Shoved into this work is a plenty of Harry Cooper drum fills, pushy lead guitar, pleasant bass guitar bumps, and a considerate vocal pace. This song has numerous nice touches all packed tightly in together and it all rolls as one. This feels like the kind of music you’d love to hear on a long highway ride, especially if you’re traveling with a large group of your favorite people.
A bluesy rocker, world wary lyrical piece, “Division Street” grooves hip and moves flip. Singing about the twists and turns of city reality, the lead vocal maintains an even flow that puts serious deadpan attention on a stark vision. Fleshing out the mean streets philosophy, the lead guitar stabs its edgy phrase into the soundscape and a gritty harmonica swaggers like a swordsman. The usually upbeat percussion instruments here create a rumbling sound that indicates the tumbling chaos of life. The perfectly set scene finds an appropriately sordid home among this bristling musical accompaniment.
Harmonica and organ work together well in this mellow, mid-tempo “Dreams.” Playing like a gentle reverie, the tuft of combined melody from the sweet harmonica, organ, and mandolin grab the ears without being grabby. It’s like being serenaded by a light jazz combo from another time period in American music. Eventually, the song feels more like a modern jam band, when the guitar kicks in with some switchy rhythm. Yet, the melodic feel from the beginning haunts this song and keeps it perfectly in the same mood even as the players add some edge.
Sounding like an old fashioned jug band, “Whiskey River” is all about the do it yourself distillery of yesteryear. Brittle mando notes, swaying harmonica, and a shuffle groove make the perfect platform for this quip laden tale of men and their home-made potions. A lean, sharp guitar line keeps it modern and old fashioned at once with its 1920s jazz patterns. Toe tapping fun singalong material to be enjoyed by all.
Close out track, the soulful, soul baring “When I’m Gone” is a roots song combined with slow boiler blues. As the lead vocal develops the emotional grist of the number, multiple acoustic instruments sprinkle their quality rustic flavor around the voice. Choir like backing vocals develop even more soulfulness, as does a simmering organ and a developing dynamic rhythm section. Combing roots with soul makes this a particularly juicy, full farewell for now from Creamery Station.
Boy, oh boy does Creamery Station fill in their jam band grooves and open spaces with a myriad of other musical genres. Making everything their own sound while maintaining the easy going flow, joyful spirit, and freedom of expression keeps everything on Story To Tell a flavorful fruit in one huge basket. There are a lot of moving parts in this album and this band manages them all with skillful hands. Creamery Station is Dylan Kader, Jim Kader, Harry Cooper, Jon Truelson, Don DeStefano, Alex Wu, Michael Ryan, and a gospel choir of Kevin Monroe and Devotion. Recorded and engineered by Vic Steffens at his Horizon Music Group studio in West Haven, Connecticut, every notes jumps out of the speakers with a nice, clear sound.