The second album from The Highest Order, Still Holding, highlights the country/folk roots of psychedelic rock.
The record can trace a lineage to hotbed venues like the Fillmore West and Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco or the Retinal Circus in Vancouver.
It’s strange, as the group is from Toronto.
Regional location didn’t stop Midwestern U.S. combos from twanging their Jaguars and singing about surfing, beaches and California back in the day. It’s a state of mind, baby.
What is remarkable is that The Highest Order have honed in on the Marin County slacker country sound that’s been overlooked in favour of the black light lava lamp-lit hallucinogenic character of popular psychedelic rock these days. The band has taken its downtown Toronto country rock and found a kindred spirit in music that hearkens back to the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Moby Grape.
Twang and fuzz are ideal partners in the sunset soundscape of Still Holding.
To say the drifting and kaleidoscopic pulse of the record is organic is an understatement. This sound is down to the seeds. It’s a casual sounding album that is intensely focussed and on Hurry Down the group references their roots right away with folk-blues choruses and the loping pace of early country rock.
Vocalist Simone Schmidt works from a poetic source that’s rife with wordplay and images and underscored by a crooning “aw shucks” voice. She has the presence of a story teller by the fireside, a cowpoke on the range who scored some peyote with her gang, wrote some songs on the plains and took them to the city.
On tracks like Hardball and I’d Ask You to Stay, it’s obvious that the band found a kindred spirit in a West Coast sound that links up with Toronto’s long tradition of basic urban country rock minus Nashville excesses, but full of California freedom.
On Keep A Window Open, the easy rhythm and longing vocals are emotional updates of a sound that’s an overlooked link to country, rock and roll and garage rock.
Still Holding finds an untapped voice in the terminus of country, psychedelia and rock – a sound with a wide expanse of expression.
The Highest Order is coming to Vernon. The band plays at Record City’s new location at 3127 30th Ave., Wednesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. Cover is $10.
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– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon, B.C.-based musician who reviews new music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.