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Beachwood Sparks

Once We Were Trees – 2001 (Sub Pop)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

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CDs by Beachwood Sparks

It's flashback time with Beachwood Sparks to the bliss-out, acid-washed Southern California country rock scene of the Sixties. Wearing their influences on their fringed sleeves, this psychedelic cowboy outfit conjures up a sound swirling with tie-dyed touches of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds. The Los Angeles-based band fills their sophomore effort with dreamy, laid-back country rock lovingly accented with psychedelic flourishes. At their best, the group confidently transcends their influences. During the disc's particularly strong mid-section, the band strings together a series of alluring tunes. The slow and simple backporch tune "Old Manatee" segues into "The Hustler," lush with harmonies and harmonica. After the twangy rock shuffle "Yer Selfish Ways" comes the barely recognizable Sade song "By Your Side," now sounding like something found in Gram Parsons' notebook.

The disc does have its frustrating moments. The instrumental jam "Jugglers Revenge" might have been better left for their live shows and the back-to-nature "I'll take the forest" lyrics occasionally feel a bit too preciously hippie-ish. But when the band aligns all their elements right, as on the old yet new sounding "The Sun Surrounds Me," they move out of the retro Sixties time-warp into something memorable in its own right.