Massey Ferguson - Hard Water
As the phrasing on "Long Time, No See," the opening track on the latest by Massey Ferguson, becomes too obviously Farrar-ian, all sorts of warning signs spring up. Certainly Uncle Tupelo was, next to the Long Ryders, the alt-country template, other bands, such as Old 97s, Slobberbone, and Drag The River, have taken that framework and built something unique from it. Too much of "Hard Water" sounds like Alt-country by the numbers.
Songs like "Pretty Plain Jane, "Freedom Country," and "Idle Threats and Cigarettes" are cookie-cutter Son Volt (for whom Massey Ferguson has opened): mid-tempo to gradually majestic sweeps. The closer, thought, "Aspartame," hints at a compromise: while clearly familiar in terms of subject and melody, the passion and the soulful steel guitar is a winning combo.
The band does stake some claims of their own on the bright shuffles of "Wenatchee Eyes" and "Sparks and Shrapnel," and on the truly haunting and beautiful "Dreams of St. Petersburg." "Good Enough" is a strong fuzzy rocker, as well.
Clearly, Washington State's Massey Ferguson have a ways to go before they step out from under the shadows of their idols. But "Hard Water" is hard to dislike. It breaks even in terms of quality, but the songs that do ring true are more than enough to go on, and to expect more from this band.
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