Bass Box | Mother Box

Local vocals
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  January 20, 2011

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The debut full-length from Bass Box is worth a listen if only for its originality. I can't remember an album that explores as much of the contemporary musical canon — rock, pop, folk, jazz, R&B, gypsy, tango — all without use of the drums. Rather, Chas Lester provides "vocal percussion," essentially beat-boxing, throughout the majority of the 12 songs here.

I'll be honest. It's not my thing. I just kept wondering why they didn't simply have a drummer.

But it's interesting. As is the songwriting, which leans heavily on vocal harmonies led by Mat Zaro that are sometimes very good (on "Never (A Comfortable Vice)," especially, with BoxSets backing vocalists Emily Verner, Kenya Hall, and Jya Kennedy), and a selection of fine-sounding instruments recorded in the studio of Wally Wenzel (Mallett Brothers, etc.), who also lends some guitar. These are the kinds of music lovers — there are UMaine-Augusta music program grads here — who want particularly for you to know in the liner notes that Wenzel switches from '79 to '76 Stratocaster from "Fairweather Friend" to "Austrian Girl." That tell you Luke Goodine plays "vintage accordion" on the whispery waltz "& (Ampersand)." That may be more concerned with entertaining themselves than an audience.

May.

I'm actually fairly entertained by the move from Larry-the-lounge-lizard vibe in "We Got Worms" to O Brother soundtrack bit "Soul Holler" mid-album. From gimme-fever vamp in "Spoonful" to sunny, folk-pop "Never." The keyboards and acoustic guitar on "For Someone" really are pretty. Dylan Verner, who drives Theodore Treehouse on the drums, proves he's more than capable with the jazz bass, too.

This is a look-what-I-can-do record, but that doesn't mean there aren't times when you're impressed.

MOTHER BOX | Released by Bass Box | at the Empire, in Portland | Jan 28 | facebook.com/bassboxmusic

  Topics: CD Reviews , R&B, rock, tango,  More more >
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