Stimulating in its willingness to try new things, yet reassuring that the Last Hombres — who’d somehow remained silent for some 10 years — remain as standard bearers for the Band’s rootsy brand of mythmaking.
Filled with deep lyrical specifity, and musicianship that goes even deeper, Odd Fellows Rest (released via Louisiana Red Hot Records) certainly recalls the Last Hombres’ long-standing relationships with the late Levon Helm and Rick Danko. But the album also pushes deeper into some of the Band’s important influences, most notably into the New Orleans brass band tradition.
Stalwarts Mike Meehan, Russ Seger and Paul Schmitz end up coming away with something all their own — even though they sit in the middle of a maelstrom of guest-star brilliance. The Hot 8 Brass Band, for instance, adds a funky grit to the proceedings, while Chris James sits in on the always-distinctive Wurlitzer. Tom Ryan spells for Helm (who helped power 2003′s Redemption along), and also provided the workspace that sparked these long-awaited sessions.
In the end, though, it’s the songs from the Last Hombres’ core trio — their voices so particular, and yet speaking to one another — that give Odd Fellows Rest balance, and no small amount of wit. As it unfolds, this comeback effort moves with grace and very real emotion between twilit moments like “The Wreckage,” sensual asides like “Dreams,” the greasy groove of “Mae West” and a shambolic, Tom Waits-ish “Streetlights” to close things out.
I’d say it’s like they never left, except the Los Hombres have picked up so many valuable things along the way. All of it informs, then elevates, their still-special, still-vibrant relationship.