Though they thrive on stage, the members of New Monsoon also know how to put together reliable studio albums, as evidenced by Hydrophonic (2001) and The Sound (2005). On V, they continue to demonstrate a fine ear for balanced, precise playing, creating a bright blend of sunny California rock, down-home, dirty blues and jazzy, world-music rhythms.
“Greenhouse” opens the disc with a definite west-coast flavor, similar to fellow Californians ALO, and the summertime vibe continues with the wandering instrumental “Song for Marie,” an energetic track that bears more than a passing resemblance to many Allman Brothers classics, particularly “Blue Sky.”
The band reveals their blues influences on “Copper Mine,” and bluegrass colors two instrumental tracks, “Romp” and “Rattlesnake Ride,” which also features eastern threads woven into the bluegrass framework. “Alaska,” one of the album’s best tracks, is a winsome, circular reflection on heartbreak, life on the run and, ultimately, redemption, with stops in cities across the country including Reno, Albuquerque, Durango, Memphis, Albany, Anchorage and Fairbanks. “White Sky Rain,” a contemplative, mid-tempo ballad, closes the album.
V doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but it’s a worthy soundtrack for summer cookouts and other laid-back events. And if New Monsoon comes to town, don’t miss the show.