D. Gross & Los Federales
I recently found out that Ina Garten hates cilantro. It’s hard to imagine her hating anything. On her fantastic cooking show, Barefoot Contessa, she’s a beacon of chill. So if Ina can admit to her blindspot, I should too: Jam bands are my cilantro. I am predisposed to dislike groups like D. Gross & Los Federales, a five-piece ensemble that describes its sound as “Cosmic Americana.” This is basically code for “sounds like Phish,” and yes, the opening track on its new album is called “Fishin’.” And yes, it’s a sunny fusion of bluegrass and psychedelic rock that could be a lost B-side from that band’s formative years. With a dancing, descending guitar lick from Chris Grigsby and heavy doses of Carson Lynch’s fiddle, it’s a crowd-pleaser for sure. But the balance of Crooks is mired in bland, meandering grooves. The seven-minute “Crows & Vegetables” expects us to be transported by its eternal three-note riff, which is asking way too much of the rhythm section. Ditto for “Limbo,” where the same thing happens with a 12-bar blues figure. And while “Train II” boasts a gorgeous country melody, it was ripped off wholesale from the Brokeback Mountain score, and quickly gives way to noodling guitars. When they get back to Phishin’, stability returns, especially the lighthearted gallop of “Anchor in the Sand.” It’s obvious to me that these guys need to lose the cosmic and focus on the Americana. But now you know to take that opinion with a grain of salt. Or should I say a sprig of cilantro?
— Joe Sweeney