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  • Jonathan Widran

OPAL CANYON, Tomorrow to the Sea

Perhaps it’s a petty point in this streaming age when album art is often experienced as tiny thumbnail images, but the psychedelic Americana/country duo Opal Canyon proves with their second full length collection, the intriguingly titled Tomorrow to the Sea, that you can’t judge the proverbial book – or a sonically trippy, raw, tender and dreamy, then playful and ultimately jumpy and percussive LP like this one – by its cover.

Not to say the image of a hazy pink sunset with vocalist Debra DeMuth depicted in large shadow hovering above a full length body shot on the shore isn’t as gentle and lovely as the lush vocal harmonies she creates throughout with her husband Dave Houghton. Just that it doesn’t let us know about Houghton, an equal partner who serves as harmony vocalist throughout, co-lead vocalist on the jangly, spirited title track (whimsically subtitled “Big Hugs”) and jangly shuffle “Last Hurrah” and whose dynamic guitarisma drives the sensuality and soul of the project as much as DeMuth’s gorgeous emotional vocals do.

Sure, he’s there with her, facing the sunset on the back cover, but again, it’s a hazy new agey image. That sort of visual vibe, combined with the gentle, meditational and romantic graces of the first three songs – the blues tinged “The Invisible,” the atmospheric folkish reflection “Crickets and Stars” and the uplifting, inspirational gospel/country ballad “Come Ashore” – might lead listeners to believe this is an exquisitely rendered, lushly produced (by Jon Evans) but decidedly low key album. Then, when the feisty, up-tempo groove on “Worried Bird” (which, cleverly, is more about worried people projecting their woes onto our feathered friends), the energy of the collection shifts upward and, while their harmonies are always the emotional core, the rock vibe and psychedelic sonics around them fascinate nonstop.

Following the frolicsome “Last Hurrah” (key line: “come on out and play”), Opal Canyon has a retro blast dancing with sly abandon to the soft rock crackle and sizzling trumpet punch of the infectious “Moon Song Swing,” declaring big optimistic eternal love on the liberating, fast rumble of the title track and – perfectly summing up the freewheeling spirit of the project – going full on exotic, booming percussive (thanks to drummer Jason Smith) and whimsical as all get out (thanks to the trippy, out there theremin of Nick Urata) as they willfully dive off the mainstream indie rock cliff to go on a “Cool Adventure.”

The final two tracks offer some splendid, raucous hijinks as well, as the duo artfully covers the hard chugging early R.E.M. rarity “(Don’t Go Back to Rockville”) and romps into twangy rockabilly territory on a romantic search for “Palm Trees” in the California desert. Not to say the album cover isn’t lovely, just sayin’….


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