CD Review of The Horseshoe Curve by Trey Anastasio
Recommended if you like
Phish, Galactic, Fela Kuti
Rubber Jungle
Trey Anastasio:
The Horseshoe Curve

Reviewed by Una Persson


rey Anastasio has been nothing if not prolific since Phish disbanded a few years ago. And after the lowlights of the past couple years (including getting busted for heroin, but musically, too), it’s nice to hear him get back to what he does best: jamming. 2005’s Shine was mostly about the songs, and it had its moments. But his latest, The Horseshoe Curve, is definitely all about the groove -- almost an encore of his ’02-’04 touring instrumental big band, in fact.

It’s a little confounding, though. First of all, there isn’t much of a spotlight shining on Trey’s trademark guitar prowess. It’s mostly horns and percussion – not that that’s a bad thing, mind you – and not really a guitar album. And while the first half abounds with deep Afrobeat funk-fusion, all up-tempo grooves, the second half is a snooze-fest of down-tempo jazz fusion navel-gazing. And I’m being literal when I say “half”: There are eight tunes on the CD – the first four are smoking, the second four are boring.

So I theorized a bit about it, and bear with me here. Perhaps, I thought, Trey was playing off the name of the album, and applied the metaphor of a horseshoe curve to the song cycle? In a vehicle, you drive into a horseshoe curve at one speed, and by the very nature of the curve, you have to decelerate and exit the curve at a much slower speed. Could that explain the sequencing of four up-tempo groove tunes in front of four down-tempo sleepers? As a friend said, “I wouldn’t put it past Trey to take that approach.” But as another friend immediately quipped, “Yeah, but even if that’s it, why bother?”

OK, fair enough. But still, if you’re a fan of funk- or groove-oriented music, those first four tunes are definite keepers. And we’re talking deep funk here, the real deal, not the good-time obvious white boy party funk, either. Jazz organ, afro-centric rhythm and percussion, and a dash of ‘70s fusion sensibility. Let’s hope Trey’s next album is heavier on the guitar and lighter on the flute, though.

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