Amerikana by The Stevenson Ranch Davidians

Release date: June 9, 2017
Label: Picture In My Ear Records

Moving on from their usual dreamy song structures, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians have opted for a more eclectic approach on new album Amerikana. Still firmly rooted within the kind of psychedelia which straddled the 60’s and the 90’s, the key band remains The Verve whose majestic laments underly much of what happens here. Here it’s done much more subtly, with less bluster providing that link to previous albums from the Ranch Davidians.

Dwayne Seagrave, the mastermind behind the band sees this new album as a celebration of the indomitable human spirit and all that goes against it. Whilst such a concept may seem unwieldy there is certain a lofty aim at turning the music into a kind of celebration. The muted aspect to the album provides a more “campfire” feel, almost cult like. A description no doubt in tune with the idea behind the band. That idea of a commune of musicians, ever changing and evolving drives Amerikana. The album art drums home that feeling of us set free against the wide expanse of the world with its gorgeous painting of the American wilderness.

That such lofty ambitions don’t quite delve deep into the music is no great wonder, however there is much to enjoy here. The 60’s twang of ‘Wack Magic’ providing that perfect thrust at the start, the absolute beauty of ‘Love Is A Big Light’ whose organ flourishes lift up the folk guitar providing a warm intimate quality. It’s use of vocal harmonies then open it up into a stunning spacious setting. Elsewhere is the come togetherness of ‘PsyOp’, a song that builds up and up as Dwayne seeks ever more ecstatic revelations. To match this with the spiritual ‘The High Meadows’ is a master stroke which brings us from the dance-floor to the church just a few minutes.

The dual quality of intimacy and spaciousness becomes a theme throughout Amerikana as it seeks ever more spiritual paths. It’s unusual to see a band strike such fervosity without becoming overtly religious and it’s testament to the power of music mixed with the concept of communality that we can find other paths to become one with the world around us. As ‘Pillow Sittin’ amusingly points out, you can try meditating but it may not get you anywhere. In fact, you may as well just be masturbating unless you find a way of reaching out to others. It’s a pin bursting the bubble at the end of an album which at first seems to risk becoming a bit too po-faced.

That final piece of sarcastic humour is the final acceptance of the folly of life and that at the end of the day, you just need to get up and do something today. It’s a validation of the human spirit and in that Dwayne Seagrave definitely achieves what he set out to do. That we get some quite remarkable music at times is an added bonus and we can come away from listening to Amerikana with a sense of having been part of something.

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