Greenhouse, the exceptional second album from Off in the Woods, one of Montana’s premier dance bands, is out. It’s been a long time coming, but well worth the wait since 2011’s Smoke Signals.
The Polson fellas describe themselves as “rock’n’ reggae roll with a funk-flavored soul.” Funky beats, sharp arrangements, whiz-bang chops from all players, and stellar singing from front-man Jon Schumaker typify their sound. They rented the versatile Hammond organ to simulate some instruments and recorded the album at an empty Wilma theater, so the sound quality is superior to boot.
Rarely can one voice carry a whole album, let alone a whole night of performing. But Schumaker’s elastic pipes are up to the task. His tenor is in the range of a Michael McDonald, say, with more depth and earthiness.
The original four-piece includes Schumaker (vocals, guitar, and bass), Sean Burress (bass and guitar), Nathan Noble (drums), and Layne McKay (sax, guitar and the album’s sound engineer). They are complemented by Kyle Daugherty (trombone and shaker), Kai Salmonson (auxiliary percussion and bass), and Kia Adibzadeh (keys).
Band members penned all nine numbers. Some are lengthy, featuring improvisational interludes amidst the vocals. A few pure instrumentals are thrown in as well.
Some pieces, such as “Candy Before Dessert” with its many moods and tempo changes, sound like film music. In fact, their music is heard in the documentary “Ride the Divide,” and in the indie film, “Bella Vista.”
They like to play punchy unison riffs to accentuate verses. Their dynamic arrangements ebb and flow, tightly wrapped in scatter-shot rhythms propelled by killer drum and bass lines, and crisp horn phrases. Abrupt stops heighten tension, and Schumaker sings in tandem with the stutter-step rhythms perfectly.
“Faces in the Mountains” is jumpy with a percussion interlude, and “American Muscle” finds Schumaker mixing a little gravel into his vocals. “Treading Water” morphs from reggae to rock and back again; and Schumaker displays his vocal agility with “Soul Revival,” traveling way up there on some falsetto “oohs.”
“Rez Rider” is a slowly rockin’ instrumental that shakes the hips and struts all over the place. It’s got a catchy, repetitious horn melody that never gets old, and a slight Atlanta Rhythm Section nuance.
The group’s seasoned sound is the complete package. They get the crowd dancin’, and even if you don’t dance, it doesn’t matter. It’s a pleasure just to listen to them!
– Mariss McTucker