Sunburned Hand of the Man Rare Wood

[Spirit of Orr; 2004]

Styles: free folk, new weird america, psycho-delic kraut rock
Others: No Neck Blues Band, Can, Tower Recordings

Sunburned Hand of the Man recording a proper LP? That was the general consensus made by fans of this free-flowing collective hearing for the first time Rare Wood, the group's new album. For those who have followed the jam-tastic New England group over the last year or two, the last thing you expected to hear was that they were recording something... in an actual studio... on a proper label... with artwork. It just didn't fit.

But that's the whole point. Rare Wood is just another step for this band of gypsies. Instead of vinyl-only releases that circulated their way to the turntables of interested listeners or homemade CDRs purchased directly from the band at their shows, Rare Wood aims just a little higher; testing the waters and seeing what fish are biting.

To be fair, there is little that separates Rare Wood from the many releases the band has put out over the last two years. Aside from a slightly cleaner sound on "Easy Wind," with it's shaman-like vocals courtesy of John Maloney, or the robotic booty-shaking groove courtesy of the incredibly talented Chris Corsano at the end of the album's finest cut, "Glass Boot," Rare Wood fits nicely with the rest of the band's catalogue, somewhere between the rambling Trickle Down Theory of Lord Knows What and the absolutely killer Wild Animal.

Despite falling into the free-folk genre with the like-minded No Neck Blues Band, Sunburned Hand of the Man's strength is that they don't mind finding a groove and riding it. Utilizing two drummers and the fact that nearly all members add percussion at some point, rhythm is their strongest weapon. On previous releases and in a live setting, the band can go off on tangents with guitars and horns and rants; but when the bass and the drums meet, they run with it.

Sadly, on Rare Wood, that groove only rears its head on "Glass Boot," where the band's modus operandi is right in your face (or up your ass). The other three tracks are excursions into free noise that the band has hinted at recently. The final track, "Buried Pleasure," might just explain what Rare Wood is all about. A total 180-degree turn, this clean and crisp recording of brushed drums, acoustic slide, and plucked notes (with a side order of melodic flute muted in the distance) fills out the meal. In the end, Rare Wood is a heaping portion of Sunburned Hand of the Man. Eat up.

1. Easy Wind
2. Gyp Hawkin
3. Camel Backwards
4. Glass Boot
5. Buried Pleasure