One Track Mind: Glass Hammer, “Crowbone” from Ode to Echo (2014)

Glass Hammer returns never sounding so much like itself, even as the band boldly expands its vocabulary — musically and quite literally. “Crowbone,” for instance, includes an invigorating guest turn by violinist David Ragsdale of Kansas fame, even while it works as an introduction into the lyrical assists featured throughout by Robert Low, perhaps best known for his Oathsworn series.

And yet the epic, seven-minute track also heralds the homecoming-themed Ode to Echo, which features a return for previous members Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz, but — significantly, for fans of their more recent projects — not the exit of Jon Davison, despite his heavy workload as the tandem frontman with Yes.

Stalwarts Steve Babb and Fred Schendel lead the group with Kamran Alan Shikoh through a layered, uplifting journey on “Crowbone,” which — other than its striking, thunderous middle turn — bears littlie resemblance to the dark themes of their most recent album, 2012′s Perilous. Former vocalists Walter Moore and Michelle Young also took part in the sessions for Ode. Groves last sang with Glass Hammer on 2007′s Culture of Ascent; Davison has taken lead vocals on the group’s last trio of albums.

As for their collaboration with Low, it represents the first time Glass Hammer has worked with a lyricist — but, at the same time, places the group in the company of previous prog greats who worked with outside authors, including King Crimson and Emerson Lake and Palmer (both of whom worked with poet Peter Sinfield) as well as Hawkwind (who wrote with Michael Moorcock, the fantasy writer). Ode to Echo, Glass Hammer’s 14th studio effort, is due for release on March 11, 2014.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.