Cover photo credit: Grant Beecher via Facebook
Athens, Georgia's own Halem Albright Band's new album, Through Human Eyes, is a welcoming collection of eclectic, country-fried jams. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has caught one of their performances in and around the Atlanta area. Guitarist and vocalist Halem Albright's playing style brings to mind the legendary Duane Allman's melodic fretboard licks, which are apparent right away from Through Human Eyes opening track "Endless Love Race." Shredding through multiple solos, Halem takes a backseat midway-through for a groovy piano ditty from keyboardist Spencer Pope.
"Wasting all that time in love for what always leads me to the wrong place," Halem sings, leading into an extended outro where his guitar chops are put on full display.
Genres switch up on the next track, the reggae-influenced "Hide the Stash." The interplay between drummer Nathan Bartlett's cross-stick downbeat and Halem's guitar patterns provides a pleasantly exotic vibe. The changing up of genres continues again on "You'll Never Hurt Me Again." A country ballad, Halem channels the late, great George Jones in his vocal inflections. The lyrics, being from the perspective of a man to his former lover, are bitter, with one example being "If I could see your history and all the others you done this way/I'd be just another sucker sittin' right at the top of the 133rd page."
Bassist Dustin Fennell goes all out right at the start of "Falling Fast Afloat" and doesn't let up once. His bass line provides a complex groove that the rest of the band works with marvelously. Bartlett's rolling drum beats ring in during the Western-style jam "Nathaniel." Female backing vocals coupled with Halem's crooning makes for an entertaining old school tune that would make Marty Robbins proud.
Halem and his band go instrumental on the sixth track, "Buford Lights." I'm not sure if they're an influence, but the drum intro reminded me a lot of Radiohead's "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." For me, "Buford Lights" is the standout song on the album. It brings in influences from everywhere, such as the delayed guitar riff that brings to mind "I Ran," the spacey keyboards of Pink Floyd, the virtuosity of guitar greats like Eric Johnson and Shawn Lane, and the instrumental interplay from Rush's "YYZ." It's a truly fantastic showcase of each member's respective talents.
The harmonious guitar riff of "I'll See You Tonight" sets up for a lengthy and explorative ballad. Halem may not have the vocal chops of Sam Cooke or Greg Allman, but he's able to bring forth a level of emotion that brings the point across without sounding phony and insincere. The track ends with a dramatic guitar solo that caps the tune off in a splendid way. The beachside ska vibes of "Hide the Stash" return on "Hold On." "I ain't in no hurry but I don't feel like waitin'," Halem sings with a flair that is equally as understated as it is soulful.
"Must Not Be My Day" is a 12-minute epic, evolving from an Allman Brothers-esque Southern rock tune into a proggy and psychedelic freakout towards the end. Halem and his band have a lot of chemistry together in their playing, and it's very evident in the way they play off of each other in this track. Ending with the nearly eight-minute long "Muscadine Grove," a playful country jam featuring a plethora of entertaining violin playing. It's a bright and joyous track, and a great way to close the album.
I may not have heard of The Halem Albright Band before this record, but I'm glad to have gotten a preview of their new album Through Human Eyes. It's an eclectic and thoroughly entertaining kaleidoscope of various genres, a truly remarkable showcase of talent, and above all else a fun album to listen to. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for these guys in the future. You can find the band's upcoming tour dates here.