CD Review of Recollection by Assembly of Dust

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Released: 2007
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Though it’s been around for a few years, Assembly of Dust is still best described as a side project for Strangefolk member Reid Genauer, in which Genauer creates a kind of alt-country/funk/blues hybrid that at times defies categorization and sometimes just sounds straight up honky-tonk. Apparently the group is also thrown into the “jam band” category, but after listening to this album, I honestly couldn’t tell you why.

Recollection itself seems a bit of a hodgepodge of ideas that never really gel. It starts off great with “Grand Design,” a song that manages to easily mix lite funk with more grandiose ‘70s California country rock. The way the band shifts gears so effortlessly gives the impression that the album is going to be similarly worthwhile. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

But the good tracks are all front-loaded here, so you can groove to the Eagles soundalike “Telling Sue” and the Little Feat-ish “Zero to the Skin” without wading through the bad stuff. The latter song is also not far from the more soulful material found on John Mayer’s Continuum, actually. Even the fourth song here, “Whistle Clock,” has an easygoing charm about it that connects instantly with the groove bone. That’s almost half the album. Ah, but wait: The big letdown is about to commence.

Starting with “Samuel Aging,” Recollection goes from retro-inspired to plain old uninspired. On this track, the band stretches out a bit (and begins to lightly touch on that “jam band” idea) and gets a little listless, despite the fact that Adam Terrell’s lead guitar is pretty damn impeccable. Ditto “40 Reasons,” a bit of an acoustic tearjerker that drives straight down the middle of Cornball Country Weepers Road. Ah, where did that initial spark go?

Thankfully, “Bootlegger’s Advice” picks the momentum back up, if only briefly. It’s chock full of funky ‘70s keyboards, and Genauer, at times, sounds eerily like Roy Orbison. It’s all over too fast, though, and “The Honest Hour” retreats back into greasy spoon chug-a-lug country corn. Does Assembly of Dust want to funk or hang out with Hank? It’s honestly hard to tell at times, and this gives the overall disc too much of a schizophrenic feel.

The closing tunes, “Truck Farm” and “Walking on Water,” attempt to hit those mellow ‘70s vibes again, but with diminishing returns. “Walking on Water,” due to the tasteful production and semi-larger-than-life lyrics, at least comes closer to achieving this goal; It’s just too bad that somewhere along the line, the back wheels fell off, and about half of the album was left to grind down to a sludgy halt.

For what it’s worth, the good songs on Recollection are must-hear numbers, proving Assembly of Dust – when the band puts its mind to it – has more than a pocketful of wealth in talent. The rest of it is just so-so; nothing flat-out terrible, but not half as engaging as the good stuff. Still, there are going to be plenty of people who will eat up the whole thing. There are definitely worse ways to spend your money.

~Jason Thompson