The Morning Pages are a quintet from Brooklyn whose obsession with Gram Parsons and the country rock of yesteryear drove them to form a band and make their excellent new EP, The Company You Keep. The EP is not the alt-country album that most bands make when they list The Gilded Palace Of Sin as their favorite album. It's not Wilco, it's not Son Volt, it's not Ryan Adams; The Morning Pages are the gather-around-the-campfire-honky-tonk-country-rock that all my favorite bands were making in the '60s and '70s. They play it fast and then slow it down at all the right moments.
The EP opens up with "With The Lord," a fantastic Flannery O'Connor-infused stomp that grabbed my attention when first seeing the band at The Annex a few weeks ago. Each member of the band is at their finest musically on this song. Vocalist Grant Maxwell sounds as if he's been up all night drinking whiskey when he sings, "The Devil has to find me with a loaded gun and the Lord makes me hesitate to be undone." Kevin Drost's guitar and Alec Higgins' piano playing are flawless, reminding me of Michael Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg, the guitar and piano players on Highway 61.
I'm instantly drawn to the ballads of any album and The Company You Keep's only ballad nails "it" on the head. "It Makes Me Cry" is the centerpiece of the EP, not only because it's the third of five songs, but because the sound that these guys got onto tape comes from the mighty heavens. It's like American Beauty fucked Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris while cheating on The Band's version of "I Shall Be Released." Maxwell sings his ass off with lovely harmonies from fellow NYC-based musicians, The Pierce Sisters.
Maxwell's lyrics and songwriting remind me of the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia relationship in that Hunter's melancholy southern-gothic road trip lyrics, when put to Jerry Garcia's dewdrop melodies and voice, formed a perfect sense of unpretentious nostalgia. Maxwell's songs are at times lyrically dark, but the music evokes the same type of feeling. We've never heard the songs on The Company You Keep, but we feel as though they are written for us.
The band is playing at Pete's Candy Shop on Friday, December 15th in Williamsburg. I highly recommend going to see them as the small venues won't last long for this talented group.
"With The Lord" MP3
"It Makes Me Cry" MP3