July 2001

Soulfarm - Scream of the Crop
Desert Rock Records 26-6
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]The Greatful Dead are gone, and gone with them that unique brand of rock and roll that seemed to unite people of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Where can the remaining deadheads go for a musical fix, now that Jerry is playing with that big band in the sky and the rest of the group have scattered to the four winds? While it may seem a tad presumptuous, I recommend that they take a listen to Soulfarm's new disc Scream Of The Crop. No, they aren’t the Dead returned to life, but they’ve sure built on the legacy that the Dead left behind.

Soulfarm actually mix a small helping of quite a few groups into their musical stew. You can hear echoes of CSN&Y style harmony (listen to "Scream") and the Southern rock sound of Lowell George and Little Feat ("Ain’t We All") in their songs. There is world music included here as well (the Spanish-tinged "Intro" and "The Ride" and Middle Eastern inflections scattered throughout the remaining songs). But the Grateful Dead's improvisational, yet song-oriented, sound predominates. Soulfarmaren’t just a copy band, however, they use the Dead as a launching pad to take you into their own private universe.

A little of the group's story may well be in order. Soulfarm used to be known as Inasence, a guitar-based jam band consisting of C. Lanzbom and Noah Chase on guitar and vocals and Mark Ambrosino on drums and vocals, aided by a number of helpers. After making a few critically acclaimed albums that went nowhere, they changed direction, attempting to write more accessible, listener-friendly tunes. On Scream Of The Crop they have succeeded remarkably well. Still guitar-based (and wait till you hear C. Lanzbom’s lead work), there is more group involvement here, with less emphasis on soloing. Soulfarm now sound like a good old-fashioned rock'n'roll band.

There are some songs on Scream Of The Crop that stand out on what is a consistently strong album. "Why Must we Wait" ("The older you grow, the less you know. The wiser you get, the more you forget") could well stand as the anthem for Generation-X. "Holy Brother" is about a mentor who is no longer there for the writer ("Holy brother with those sad, kind eyes, you give me a reason, then you say goodbye"). And my personal favorite, "Something Special," is about making someone smile.

The sound here is, in many ways, typical studio sound. While you can clearly hear each musician, there is very little interplay among them sonically. Each sounds as though he was in a sound booth (which I’m sure was the case). The soundstage is pretty much speaker to speaker, with almost no depth evident. Yet, all that being said, the instruments, especially the acoustic ones, are tonally correct. The voices sound 3-D, not at all the seemingly ubiquitous disembodied sound of so many pop/rock recordings. Bass is full, deep and "purr-fect" in its sound, as is the shimmer of Mark Ambrosino’s cymbal work. So, while not perfect sonically, the album comes off better than most.

Soulfarm has given us an album's worth of catchy, hook-laden tunes. If they can continue to expand on the foundation laid down here on Scream Of The Crop, I can foresee big things not too far down the road. They have learned their musical lessons well. And while they will never be mistaken for The Grateful Dead, that may very well be a good thing -- since copy bands seldom survive long. The Dead are gone -- long live their legacy in groups such as Soulfarm. The future looks bright!