On Friday, the Luxuriant Sedans will release “Fourth Gear,” a brand-new, 10-song studio album.
It will be available on CD (at shows and through the band’s website www.theluxuriantsedans.com) and on all major digital outlets, including iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify.
It is our fourth album in almost five years - an accelerated creative pace that harks back to the creative frenzy of the 1960s.
As with our previous two studio albums (our third album was a raucous, limited-edition live album recorded at The Garage, available only at our shows) “Fourth Gear” was recorded live in the studio, including vocals, with minImal fixes.
The new disc marks an audible move forward, as we are a different, tighter, and by extension, better band.
The basic tracking was efficiently quick; we rarely did more than two takes of any song, a tribute to the skill and chemistry of the musicians and the amount of rehearsal that went into honing these songs.
There are some key guests, most notably the top-tier horn section of saxophonist Tim Gordon and trumpet player Brad Wilcox, who have toured with The Temptations and the Four Tops.
They contribute transformative horn arrangements to three of the album’s centerpiece songs - and the results are as magical and wondrous as they are punchy and powerful.
The production and mixing, by the indispensable Chris Garges, with deep input and guidance from Rob Slater and myself, took twice as long as on previous albums.
This was not a result of it being more laborious. Rather, it was an extension of Chris’ vision and dedication, and Rob and myself getting more comfortable with and better at the tweaking that is the post-tracking heart of making albums.
We knew what we wanted and we took the time to get it - in large part thanks to the incredible ears, creative skill and patience of Chris Garges. His ability to get amazing sounds - the magnificent drum sound alone will turn heads - is nothing short of voodoo.
We HIGHLY RECOMMEND Chris and Old House Studio in Charlotte. (And a big shout-out to Scott Craggs and Old Colony Mastering in Rhode Island, who did an exquisite job mastering the album).
To a man, we were shocked and elated at how it all turned out.
Yes, I know - ALL bands say that when releasing a new album. But this one is somehow ... different ... and no one is more surprised than the five of us.
“Fourth Gear” is a full realization of the sound and approach that was conceived at the beginning of this band - a sonic direction rooted in blues manner and tradition, but one that encompasses the spirit and elements of the various musical tributaries that the five band members have navigated through musical careers that in most cases stretch back 50 years.
This is the mature sound of chops meeting chemistry, of friendships and musical partnerships that largely date back to our teens. This is what hopefully happens when skilled musicians listen to each other to serve the song, not the individual ego.
The making of the album was a perfect storm: The right songs, the right players, the right studio, the right engineer, all converging at the right time.
The album’s title, “Fourth Gear,” smartly conceived by singer and harp player extraordinaire Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski, evokes the essence of these performances.
We are not bragging; honestly, we are not.
In fact, we remain kind of humbly stunned.
I have been a rabid consumer and listener of music for as long as I can remember. I made a good living for 25 years as a fairly well-respected critic. In that time, I reviewed nearly 8,000 albums and listened to more than 10 times that amount. And I continue to absorb new music each week. It is my last remaining addiction.
At this point, I have heard “Fourth Gear” at minimum 50 times. I have it heard with critical ears and as enjoyment.
I have heard it played in bars, over p.a. systems and over studio monitors. I have heard it on modest home stereo systems and high-end systems that cost close to $20,000.
Each time, the album leaves me speechless and grateful that I work with such talented people as my bandmates.
I honestly would not change a thing.
The journey starts with songs.
There is method behind the madness that goes into choosing material for the Sedans.
It begins with musical archaeology - a time-consuming progression of discovery, revision and revival.
The goal is to bring back from the dead old, forgotten or overlooked songs - musical voodoo, if you please.
The songs on “Fourth Gear,’ brought back into the light after a period of spelunking in musical rabbit holes, are all songs that once expressed somebody’s else’s thoughts, pain, hopes or dreams.
These drastic reworkings of generally obscure compositions suit the demands of the two elements that are crucially at the heart of the band’s sound - singer/harp player Mike “Wezo” Weslowski and guitarist Gino “Woo Funk” Grandinetti.
Wezo and Gino are each innovators; each have a deeply distinctive sound and approach to their instruments and performance.
Wezo is the man who inhabits and transforms the soul of each song; he absorbs and contemporizes the message of each tune through deeply expressive, soulful and often disarmingly personal vocal testimonials.
His singing on “Fourth Gear” is extraordinary; he wholly inhabits each tune and brings fresh reason and vitality to each performance.
His approach is never imitative; he makes each song wholly, singularly, his own.
And as a harp player - simply put, he is his own man.
One can certainly hear foundational touchstones in his playing - Butterfield, Cotton, Jacobs - but his sound and approach are his alone.
His tone is his own; once heard, you know it is Wezo within a few bars. And his solos defy convention; he uniquely bridges musical styles, mixing and matching genre elements to create an improvisational ideology more common to advanced guitarists or horn players.
He is the beating blue heart of the band, vocally and instrumentally, and is the definition of “future blues.”
And Gino - there is not a guitarist on the planet that approaches the instrument as he does.
His playing will literally make you go “Woo.”
His harmonic approach to chordal voicing is otherworldly. People perpetually ask who was playing keyboards on the album or onstage. The answer: Nobody; it is all Gino on guitar.
His often abstract approach to soloing drops jaws.
And the way he continually opens up harmonic avenues with dizzying chord choices transforms each song into something exotic and fresh.
It is a rare pleasure listening to Gino weave spells in tandem with fellow guitarist Rob Slater, whose own original approach to soloing creates no shortage of spectacular moments.
On “Fourth Gear,” listen to how Wezo, Gino and Rob create an edgy sonic approximation of dark, angry and dangerous hurricane-force winds on “Down in New Orleans,” a song about Hurricane Katrina that has found fresh relevance in the aftermath of hurricanes Maria and Florence.
And one can’t say enough about the contributions of new drummer Larry Carman to “Fourth Gear.”
Larry is a musician’s musician. In his long career, he has played rock, funk, R&B and, for the past two decades, jazz (largely with Matt Kendrick). The choice flavor of his playing has opened up the band’s sound, shoring up the foundation where the groove lives while bringing fresh sophistication and color to the arrangements.
He has created new avenues with his fresh ideas, and in the process has made the Sedans a better and more adventurous band.
What a pleasure it is being his partner in the Sedans’ rhythm section. We are a tighter section
- and offer more subtly playful twists - because of Larry Carman.
That I am proud of “Fourth Gear” - and of my bandmates - is obvious.
I am in love with this album. I am in love with this band.
I hope this album will bring all of you the joy and satisfaction that it brings all of us.
Please give it a chance, take a listen and let us know what you think.
As always, thank you for loving music, and thank you for your support.
In a mean old world, we love each and every one of you.
And that’s not fake news.