"A Thousand Small Things"
Iowa City's rambunctious pan-Americana purveyors The Mayflies have undergone a slew of band name and personnel changes in their decade-or-so existence.
That said, their current moniker matches their original one (after two alternates), founding members Stacy Webster (lead vocals, guitars) and James Robinson (drums, vocals) have remained constant, co-founder Patrick Bloom continues to feed the group terrific original material from the wings, and rock-steady Dave Lumberg (bass, vocals) has done much to anchor The Mayflies' rhythm section and emotional core.
On "A Thousand Small Things," co-producer/engineer Luke Tweedy (Will Whitmore) captures the band with an early-Seventies vintage treatment that perfectly suits The 'Flies' loose-limbed amalgam of folk-tinged country-rock.
There's a strong whiff of The Dead (circa "Workingman's..." and "American Beauty") throughout -- particularly on Bloom's "All These Desperate Angels" and Lumberg's "Mississippi Soul" -- and outgoing Jon Eric's idiosyncratic banjo adds a trace of The Dillards' electro-'grass hybrid.
But it is Webster's singing -- evoking James McMurtry's dusky, slightly-flatted intimacy or a young Pete Seeger, as well as the romantic, precise-diction stylings of Michael Nesmith in his groundbreaking, high-concept First National Band recordings -- that shapes/defines The Mayflies' sound.
Webster's notched-up guitar playing also is a revelation, and yet, ultimately, it is a group triumph from pillar to post.
-- Jim Musser