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The Black Watch's "Witches!" a jangly, strummy gem

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Black Watch – Witches! (Atom) 2018

As I gaze out the rain-dappled window, looking out onto a tree just beginning to show some autumn color, the new album from L.A.-based jangly, indie-pop band The Black Watch (stylized as “the black watch”), has just released the album Witches!, and I, for one, feel quite happy being under its spell.

I’ll admit to not being familiar with the group, led by John Andrew Fredrick, but that is my fault. I have tried staying up on indie guitar-pop groups with a jangly, 60’s flavor since the late 1980’s, around the same time The Black Watch began releasing albums (yes, that long ago!)

“Dances For Sad Footsteps Slow” is where Witches! (on Dayton, Ohio-based Atom Records) gets going, albeit at a subdued pace. Strummy, dreamy, reminds me of some of the Sarah Records bands I listened to in the early 90’s. And like those Sarah artists, the Englishness of this American band is clearly evident in style, sound and presentation.

In fact, when I hear Fredrick’s voice, it reminds me of David Gedge of The Wedding Present, which wasn’t a Sarah Records artist, but has that strummy confidence, balanced with an intellectually-honest sensitivity that really speaks to me.

And that works well for me, as we get baroque-pop breaks on “When We First Met” (is that a Mellotron? Not sure, there’s nothing in the sleeve about who played what and whatnot),

When Fredrick repeats “You do realize, there’s a ghost in your apartment,” you sense its presence as on “The Beginning of the End,” a melancholy song that seems most appropriate on a dreary day like today.

Meanwhile, the delicious pop nugget “Georgette, Georgette” worms its way into your brain and finds its happy place.

The final three tracks - "The Weird Sisters," "Ode to Spring" and "Nineteen Sixty Six or So" - have a wistful, literary quality, while couched amidst a pastoral, folk-pop sound (and those earnest vocals, Mr. Fredrick!). And I love the '66 reference, since I just wrote a book - Rock Catapult - about the music of that key year in rock music.

I know Fredrick and The Black Watch have been around for a long time and the passage of time seems to have refined The Black Watch and its musical vision. Witches! is right where they need to be.

For more information, go to www.johnandrewfredrick.com.

 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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