Graded on a Curve:
Color Green,
Color Green

Color Green is the Los Angeles-based duo of Noah Kohll and Corey Madden. Both are multi-instrumentalists, but guitar is the primary axe of the pair. On their self-titled full-length debut, co-released by the fine folks at ORG Music and the Aquarium Drunkard web magazine, they welcome a fair amount of assistance in fleshing out a bold and bright psychedelic rock sound. It’s an expansively jam-affiliated situation but with a firm handle on songwriting. Cosmic? Oh, yes indeed. The album, clearly designed to deepen unperturbed vibes, is out July 22 on vinyl, compact disc, and digital.

In the runup to this album, Color Green issued a pair of digital singles and before that, last year, a 4-song EP, with cassette tape the physical format chosen, tinted translucent green in a micro edition of 50, with the whole bunch sold exclusively through Instagram. And so, with this eponymous affair, the duo’s profile will surely be rising, particularly amongst folks into current sounds impacted by the Grateful Dead.

Now, if you’re thinking I might be overstating the Dead influence, please understand that in the thank you list on that earlier (also self-titled) EP, Kohll and Madden tip the hat to Jerry Garcia, specifically for his spiritual guidance. But it’s also necessary to point out that Color Green aren’t indulging in imitation as tribute. Instead, like Rose City Band, Garcia Peoples, Woods, Elkhorn, Wet Tuna and a few others, they are adapting and extending the innovations of the Dead (and other psychedelic acts in their orbit) in a contemporary underground context.

Opener “Warbling Sky” is perfect for a humid, sunny Sunday morning: it’s country-tinged, slow moving, spacious and soaring, at least until an uptick in the tempo and intensity arrive late in the track, with the grooving guitars insinuating some non-retrograde Southern Rock stuff. But there’s a touch of Garcia and Weir in there too, and that’s just fine.

So is “Ill Fitting Suit,” which quickly kicks into high gear and lays the country-rock atmosphere on nice and thick, complete with tandem vocals, beaucoup pedal steel, and tidy drumming. Make no mistake that Color Green hits as a legit full-band experience, with “Ain’t It Sad” giving off early Meters funkiness, at least until the tempo relaxes a bit and the Beta Band-like vocals come in.

“Bell of Silence” throws a bit of a curve by adding some banjo (plucked by Madelyn Strutz), but as it plays the vibes are a bit reminiscent of the Meat Puppets circa Up on the Sun. But the following track, “Ruby,” reminds me, purely on an instrumental level, of late ’90s Lambchop, though the similarity lessens once the vocals come in and the tendrils of psych atmosphere emerge.

Folks with a disinterest in this Dead-descended sort of thing are likely to imagine this record as marred by addled meandering, but Color Green are downright disciplined in the songwriting department, and it’s not always easy to identify influences. That’s the case with “Verdolaga Dreams,” which throws in a sax solo (from Gravy Flores) with nary a hint of overwrought soul-boy toxicity.

“Stretchin’ Thumbs” brings back the banjo as part of a country-groove scenario that mingles glisten and glide with a little stomp as the effects pedals blend with the pedal steel (played by Tim Ramsey). And then Color Green save their boldest rocker “Blizzed Out” for last, infused as it is with tough slide guitar with more of that Southern rock edge.

That Color Green’s sound is so reliant upon classic models can stir a temptation to underrate their achievement on this album, but it’s exactly the avoidance of the predictable alongside the aforementioned discipline and the consistent sharpness of execution that makes this long-playing debut so impressive.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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