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Mellow, attractive country-rock

California
California
By The Coyote Problem

Self-released: 2007

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This review first appeared in Turbula in May 2007.

The second CD from San Diego County's the Coyote Problem finds the band presenting a likeable, radio-friendly country-rock hybrid of the sort that the Eagles, Linda Ronstandt and Pure Prairie League popularized 30 years ago. But fellow '70s country-rockers Poco might be a better comparison, as the music found on the Coyote Problem's "California" is of a similarly mellow appraoch. (And lead singer Peter Bolland's voice is fairly similar to those of one-time Poco singers Rusty Young and Paul Cotton.)

The 16 songs here were all written by Bolland, who also plays guitar for the trio. There are some lovely melodies here, and a few truly memorable hooks.

What's most remarkable about this album, though, is how fully integrated the band's sound is. Yes, Bolland's slightly raspy vocals are a major component of the band's sound, but so is the casual, loping rhythm of drummer Danny Cress and the tightly woven interplay between Billy Fritz's bass and Bolland's guitar, as are the vocal harmonies of Bolland and Fritz. The band itself has a personality apart from that of its three members.

"Into the Mystery" is a good example of that personality. The song opens with a Mexican-tinged guitar passage before Bolland's attractive tenor singing voice takes the lead atop a gently rocking guitar-bass-drums backbeat. "She's Alone Again" is another gem: plush-pile vocal harmonies caressing gorgeous melodic theme. "I Still Believe" is also a keeper.

The only drawback on this album is that almost all of the songs have the same relaxed, mellow feel. Listening to 16 songs performed in a subdued meter is a bit repetitve after awhile. Even the relatively uptempo songs, like "Let's Get Drunk," "England" and "I Got Out," would be most other bands' ballads. The band simply never lets loose and rocks out – and without some pure rock 'n' roll, how much of a country-rock hybrid is it?