Review: Old Californio “Sundrunk Angels”

Old Californio
Sundrunk Angels
(Californio Records)

Offering up a twang infused hybrid of 60s San Francisco Psychedelia, crossed with early California Country-rock, LA based, Old Californio live up to their name with their latest release, Sundrunk Angels. Hearkening back to the days of Haight/Ashbury, this strong rooted band brings out the influence of country-crossed hippie music without the typical indulgent meandering jams most Grateful Dead throwback groups fall victim to.  Their free-spirited and bright guitar riffs may go well with an oil lamp and acid trip, but Old Calfornio never lack intent or structure in the dynamic music they play.

Lead by chief songwriter, vocalist and muti-instrumentalist, Rich Dembowski, Old Californio’s version of Cosmic American Music is one that hits everywhere from early alt-country to all that should encompasses the signature sunny California sound, with understated and uniquely sweet harmonies that recall the days when artists like The Byrds, Gram Parsons and The Beach Boys represented the Sin City music scene. With ten songs averaging in length from five to six minutes a piece, Sundrunk Angles is an album that makes it clear this is a band who favor artistic value over butchered, airplay ready, radio friendly cuts.  Still, Old Californio’s hook driven songs  make them a band that fit well alongside experimental pop-country  masters like Wilco and earlier pioneers of country-psych like Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators.

Kicking off the momentum with, “Learn to Cheat,” lines like “There’s only one thing for an honest man to do, keep your cards close to your vest, pray for the best, learn to cheat,” show that Old Calfornio are not only a band anchored by well crafted arrangements, but that they are capable of penning some ironic, clever lyrics that command the listeners attention. Though most of the album’s tracks are filled with electric sounds, the stripped down “Unsatisfied” features hypnotic picking patterns mixed with Jerry Garcia vocals and a hint of Jacksonville City Nights era Ryan Adams tunes like “Trains,” minus the escalated baroque vocal cries.

Though the 6:38 title track proves an ode to the Burrito Brothers flavor,  “Jewels and The Dross,” shows Old Californio’s varied capabilities, as it busts into the full-fledged Syd Barrett, early Pink Floyd style jam with a lot more containment, following the statement “packing up my wife and son, packing up my drugs and my guns, anybody wanna come?”  that does nothing less than illustrate the tone with the unmistakable, trippy-rock sound this band does so well.

Closing out the album is  “Come Tomorrow,” which is filled with a rich arrangement of soaring harmonies, blues harp and surf guitar that will give Brian Wilson-centric bands like The Wondermints, Sean Lennon and Of Montreal a run for their money. What sets Old Californio apart from the rest, is their ability to nod to different styles that come together to bring about their own special style.  Rich in production value, Sundrenched Angels is a fresh take on all things good about California music that isn’t just an ode to the former work of others.  Rather, it’s a tremendous range of influence with nothing short of interesting perspective, catering to all taste on the audiophile spectrum.

“Come Tomorrow” by Old Californio

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  1. I love the jam out at the end of this song. Great tune.

  2. I don’t know who wrote this, but they really get it. Great Review!

  3. Once in a while, that editor of ours writes something. Thanks, Kim!

  4. Pingback: Sin City Spotlight: The Far West

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