Monday, February 8, 2010

Packway Handle Band - What Are We Gonna Do Now?

Packway Handle Band
What Are We Gonna Do Now?

Self Released

You know what I say? The Packway Handle Band can pretty much do whatever they want. The Athens-based band is already lauded for their tightly spun harmonies, material that includes a growing batch of their own extremely well-written songs, quirky cover choices and a string of impressive live performances. And with What Are We Gonna Do Now? they seem poised to step things up a notch and stand toe-to-toe with the best folk/bluegrass bands around. This is their fourth full length studio release (there was also a 2007 live EP) and their consistency and quality has to be reckoned with. This one, self-produced and recorded at fiddler Andrew Heaton’s house, is a departure from their stage show, where the band crowds around twin condenser microphones, stepping up to add a lick or sing a line, because on this record, each member recorded their parts separately. A minor point perhaps, but to my ears, there’s a different sense of space and warmth, a depth that comes from extra brushstrokes courtesy of sax and flute on a couple of tunes.

Heaton’s wry songs, “What Is A Packway Handle?,” which does absolutely nothing to answer that question (which is of course the point), and “I’m Glad You’ve Got My Priorities So Straight” provide the winking, smiling counterpoint to Michael Paynter’s five contributions. Paynter’s “Off My Knees” has surging bluesy riffs that explode into a chorus of layered harmonies, while “Outskirts” sports emotionally expressive lyrics that for some reason remind me of Dylan, circa Blood on the Tracks. Guitarist Josh Erwin chips in with three tracks including the instrumental “Horse vs. Technology.” This release is easily their most accomplished and well-rounded and I’d put it up against anyone else in that vague Americana/folk/bluegrass category that people want to talk about.

What Are We Gonna Do Now? I don’t know; just let me know when you do it.

Curtis Lynch
Playgrounds Magazine
February 2010

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