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Philadelphia’s Labradors Offer a Different Take on Country Rock

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The AS song says ‘there’s a time and a place for everything’ and it’s something that very much applies to the band under the spotlight in this week’s column.

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The American band Labrador, who hail from Philadelphia, are components of bluesy, sometimes hurtful, alt-country and their songs portray a deep and passionate honesty that is sorely lacking in mainstream music.

The album, ‘Hold the Door for Strangers’, was released this month and is a great collection of tracks that show many different sides of the band.

‘State Line to Eagleville’ kicks things off and it’s a lovely take on the late 60s and early 70s. It’s a vibe enhanced by the song’s structure which is based around a descending bass line and chord pattern.

The band is composed of principal songwriter Pat King (vocals/guitar); Chris Hayes (lead guitar/vocals); Sayesha Heinzmann (bass/vocals); Chris Arena (drums/percussion/vocals); and Grace Kim (violin).

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There are keyboard contributions from Kyle Gilbride who also mixed and produced the album with the band.

There’s a slight Beatles vibe to the opener, but King’s vocals show a gritty edge that lends the song an air of passionate honesty. This is honest rock ‘n’ roll at its best.

‘Mexican Beer’ is a more downbeat song and takes the listener down a languid, melancholy road.

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There’s a vibe of loneliness in the song that really captures the imagination and it’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Ryan Adams album.

The gentle nature of the accompaniment is offset by a blistering guitar solo which, in theory, should be at odds with the general vibe of the song but this isn’t the case and it actually gets it right.

‘Dog Chorus’ is a fusion of the previous two songs; Not that the ideas on the album are repetitive because they aren’t. However, this track has the downbeat feel of the previous song but the opener has an angry vibe.

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One gets the impression that these are very personal songs where the author has revealed his soul. It’s like poetic, introspective comments on a magnificent rhythmic tapestry.

‘I Lost My Gun’ is a gentle, country-style ballad, where the vocals are executed verbally on the verses and sung on the chorus.

The backing vocals on the chorus are subtle yet very effective and give the track a slightly psychedelic feel.

‘Guy with a Job (That Nobody Wants)’, although a mid-tempo track, has a slight punk-like edge to it which is interesting.

To be fair, trying to lump the band into any one particular category or genre would be difficult and a disservice.

Yes, there’s definitely a country-side to the Labrador, but there are many other influences and styles in evidence as well.

‘A Runner’s Body’ can be described as a blues-folk, with a lovely, hazy blues feel in terms of the musical accompaniment, while the vocal melody exhibits more of a folk vibe.

Talking about the album, Pat King said: “A lot of these songs focus on harsh lessons in dealing with empathy or exploring the ability to contemplate.”

He reflected on the line, ‘We all stand tall without feet to stand on’, in particular reference to the album’s title track, and said it is basically the ‘thesis statement of the record’ and commented: “Something No what are you” you are going through, someone is going through worse.”

There are many influences on the album through Bandcamp, which is also available to stream and on cassette.

‘The Last Race of the Season’ has a James Taylor feel to it and from a personal perspective it is one of the best songs on the album.

It has a great melody and the overall sound of the accompaniment is warm and deep. The bass pattern is excellent and it must be admitted is excellent throughout the music. The album’s final song, ‘Wear It Like a Badge’ begins in a downbeat fashion before kicking off with a more rockier groove at around the one minute mark.

The melody is infectious and the looseness of the music is very catchy, giving the impression that it was recorded in a live-take format.

The title track of the album brings things to a close and does so with a bang.

It’s a languid, low-beat acoustic-driven track that displays incredible honesty. It’s a lot of acoustic guitar and vocals and the ideal way to round out an excellent collection of tracks. Labrador is a band that should have broad appeal to fans of many different genres. This album is at times rocky, at times bleak and melancholy, but it is the definitive sound of a band that deserves to be known on a globally successful level.

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