Red Molly – The Red Album (2014)

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Over their first 10 years, Red Molly has developed a well-earned reputation for its engaging brand of Americana, one marked by gorgeous three-part harmonies and a meticulously upbeat, rootsy sound. The forthcoming Red Album, this trio’s first in Nashville and its first with Ken Coomer of Wilco fame, changes all of that.

Not that Abbie Gardner, Laurie MacAllister and Molly Venter don’t still lock voices with a graceful symmetry, or that they’ve left their dobro, bass and guitar at home. Instead, The Red Album — set for independent release on May 27, 2014 — absorbs all of those talents then offramps into a diaphanous, mystery-filled place. Rather than picking and grinning their way through an afternoon on a sun-flecked front porch, Coomer has them set up in the corner of dusky saloon. As he runs Gardner’s dobro through a series of evocative effects, it’s clear that this is a Red Molly album like no other.

Aptly compared to the eerie ruminations of Mazzy Star, but with a slight twang, The Red Album makes room for smart covers of “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” by Richard Thompson. But originals like the opening “Clinch River,” with its oaken mystery, set the tone. It cracks the door into a new world, then closes it firmly behind you.

As stand-out tracks like “Willow Tree,” “When It’s All Wrong” and “Copper Ponies” go by, they surround you with whispered secrets and strange entreaties. The Red Album is as cinematic as it is involving, a wide-screen album from a group that has always impressed with its chops — but now displays a newfound vision beyond the genre restrictions that have always contained them.

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