Ah New Jersey, the home of highways, funky smells, and some beautiful beaches (believe it or not). Jersey is also home to the touring fixture known as Scarecrow Collection. While they have shared the stage with the likes of Addison Groove Project, Max Creek, and a veritable whose whom of the Northeast Jamband scene at such festivals as Gathering of the Vibes and The Great Bamboozle, this is their first studio album. This self-produced offering, Hooked and Shattered, is a brightly colored collection of varying music. From song to song the sonic soundscape shifts between white boy funk, to bluegrass hoe-downs, back to bluesy instrumentals. This is a band that seems to embrace all styles and forms of music but focuses here on what’s vital for studio releases, songs. This is a welcome change from most “Jambands” studio efforts where riffs and free form playing, are meddled together with nonsense words to create what are called songs, but in fact are mostly ideas that need crafting. While not all of the songs here work perfectly, effort is evident and Gerard Fee (Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals), Joseph Fee (Drums) Ed Fritz (Keys), Nick Setteducatio (Electric Guitar), Mike Sojkowski (Bass) have developed a foundation for a successful future.
Scarecrow Collection has put together a sampling of styles that runs the gamut. The first and last songs show the range of influence. The opener "Texas" has a G-Love and Special sauce feel, but is a bit stagnant. It is as if lead singer Gerard Fee was afraid to say “ass” on a record his parents would hear. The closing track, "Hey My Friend" is a swirl of rising samba and calypso flare that, while truncated here, has room to soar live.
The highlights of the album lay in the middle with the well-constructed title track and the instrumental titled "Burgess." The most lyrically passionate song on the album, "Hooked and Shattered" combines strong singing with polished, grasping musicianship. A catchy song with glimpses of dark sound spirals, the driving pulse push, snaking up and down, until fading out leaving the listener wanting more. "Burgess," hopefully named for Meredith, sounds as if it was an outtake from the Gov’t Mule Grammy nominated instrumental, "Sco-Mule." Blues guitar, funky bass lines and a beefy keyboard, combine to create the tightest audile interlocking offered.
Not all of the songs work as well as these two, for an album that pushes a singer-songwriter to the forefront, as some of the lyrics are cliched and at times a bit wince inspiring. "Fate" comes to mind, not so much for the pseudo politics but for the uninspired rhyming, “You have to feel compassion for the people on the street/’Cause they have nothing to eat”. Also at times there is a lacking in low-end, certain songs obtain a light summery feel (example: "Speakers by the Fire") but this also weakens the backbone of others (example: "Pressure").
Capturing any “Jambands” live sound in the studio is perhaps the largest problem facing this scene today, but the Scarecrow Collection are stalking the correct cornfield. With Hooked and Shattered they have created a firm base with strong, textured songs, stout vocals and solid musicianship. Let the live show speak for itself (go catch them at a summer festival near you). Hooked and Shattered serves its purpose and the freshman release from these Jersey Jammers introduces us to a growing band…let’s see what their Sophomore year brings.
For more info see: scarecrowcollection.net