Certainly So – Dreams of Green
This 9-song collection’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but Certainly So do succeed in adding enough of their own whimsicality & musical finesse to make the project interesting.
The vocals are on a low flame but harmonies are bright with their merged identities. Melodies are memorable & simple, with little instrumental showboating. No one tries to sing beyond their range. Their attraction is in their showcase & arrangements. It’s country-inflected music (they’re from Alabama but Nashville-based). They add enough pop-sensibility to dilute the retro possibilities such songs leave behind in their wake.
“Daydreams,” is a highlight dipped gently into a vaudeville-Tin Pan Alley batter. With its added Herb Alpert-type horns it’s engaging, but whistling should be left up to Whistling Jack Smith. We don’t want a perfectly good song to detour into novelty-land. The song also has the humorous inclination to sound as if it could’ve been sung through a megaphone at one time or plucked on a guitar by the late Leon Redbone. The song as a whole is pleasant if not nostalgic.
Abbey Road Studio producer Toby Hulbert helped Certainly So (founded in 2019) realize their sophomore effort Dreams of Green (Drops July 1–Independent). It’s a well-recorded “mini-LP” by the indie-folk quartet & what makes the tunes of interest is the clever insertion of FM radio samples that don’t interfere with the flow but allow the stream of songs to sound like they’re emanating from the radio.
Founding members Tanner Gray & Colby Wilson (guitars/slide guitar/vocals) have chemistry but they aren’t recreating anything terribly original here as much as maintaining a tradition with class. Joined by Zach Corder (drums) & Chase Porter (bass/percussion) the songs touch upon soul-exploring road trips, self-acceptance, forging new paths & relationships with brief interludes into what made this kind of music important.
There are no real missteps though some tunes are a bit plain following the standard expected chord structures. But, like a birthday gift, all are always wrapped up in colorful paper, nonetheless.
There are textures derived from Aztec Two-Step (“I Wish I Was In Texas”), some of the more late-career Everly Brothers (“Milk Train”) & perhaps a little of Poco (“Brass Buttons”). The more serious tunes of Certainly So have the most integrity.
“Far From Home,” is quite exceptional. Lyrically “Holy Roller,” sparkles & is sung in the tradition of many past-country singers (Marty Robbins, Sonny James, Buck Owens). More Spanish-flavored trumpets highlight “Song and Dance,” sung in a contemplative tone. Sad, but a beauty.
A cover of the Johnny Cash classic “I Still Miss Someone,” is done respectfully but does sound out of place on this set. Should’ve been a B-side, or bonus cut. It was wise to make it the last song on the CD.
Color image by Jackson Ross. The 30-minute CD available @ https://www.certainlysomusic.com/