Glad to Meet You


Gladstone (G-Star)

By Billy Bartley

Gladstone's self-titled debut powerfully blends a wide range of rock sounds to deliver a jam band potpourri of an album. Their style is similar to The Grateful Dead's, Widespread Panic's, and Phish's. Somehow, though, Gladstone stays its own band throughout the record. They are not trapped by the years of preconception, but instead are steeped in years of tradition.

Yes, they jam, but without pretension. The band consists of Neil Hulswede on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and vocals; Sam Shaheen on bass and vocals; Dan Monarch on piano, organ, acoustic guitar, and vocals; and Scott Van Houten on drums and percussion. Even on the more minimal songs where other bands seem a little hollow, Gladstone seems to have a freshness and attitude. They also seem more apt to take risks with their production, which can be surprising at times. Although the music is entirely written and mostly recorded by the band, they had help blending from the wise ears of Jeff Maffeo on the mixing desk.

Throughout this understated production, the song is king. Not for one minute are you wondering where this ensemble is coming from, or if it is really some studio magic Maffeo is pulling from his hat. The parts contributed by guest musicians even seem to blend, weave, and bob in the room with the band.

When Gladstone gets cooking its like sweet potato pie. The track "Shine Like Gold" is like walking into a field of poppies in bloom. The boys get some help on this one from Randy Shipley on the lonesome pedal steel and Tracey Brown with beautiful backing vocals. Together they help deliver the band, and especially Hulswede's lead vocal, to the table. Other highlights include the mean track "Stormy Seas". The tune gets cameos from Eric Whorton and Andy Brown of Louisville's El Roostars. Each respectively endorses the rest of the band with guitar and backing vocals. The surf-esque riffs of "Ravine," the opening track, are juxtaposed to half time sections, which ring with thick backing vocals. The most effortless song is the second track, "Fall." It showcases Shaheen's bass and Van Huton's drumming together, weaving a smooth groove with Myron Koch kicking licks on the saxophone.

All in all, Gladstone takes chances with this recording. They run, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes astounding us, through this 12-song debut.