Achilles Wheel | Stones to Sand | New Music Review

As the web of Americana continues to be woven, artists connect the past and present through musicianship and songwriting that reflects a fluid agreement between contemporary and roots qualities. Too often is nostalgia misrepresented as authenticity, and bands afraid to develop their own sound generally don’t last the test of time. Of one Northern California’s most promising ensembles that reflects true individualism through songwriting and playing is Achilles Wheel. Based out of Nevada City, California the quintet has been picking up momentum since a debut performance at Kate Music Festival two years ago and attracting devoted new fans at every gig. Perhaps it’s the strong individual qualities of guitarists Jonny Mojo Flores and Paul Kamm that bind together a unique fluidity of pop, folk, blues, and rock. Their newest album, Stones to Sand is a milestone for the band. Fourteen powerful, all-original tunes naturally cover a large spectrum of musicality and emotion, all self sustaining but cooperating well as a statement about love and embracing individualism.

Ignoring any supposed status quo of what’s current, the band takes its seriously impressive instrumentation and focuses on creating their own criteria of contemporary. Reminiscent of sounds and feelings that have moved you before, but never posing as anything not their own, Flores and Kamm, alongside drummers Gary Campus and Mark McCartney with bassist Shelby Snow bind together a sensible meaning to all of the diverse musical territory covered.  From the confident folk-rocker opening track “The Truth is What You Know” it’s clear that the flying lead guitar licks are craftily placed to bring deep instrumental value to a quality pop tune. Kamm’s voice is soft but ragged, and his songwriting vies in depth and quality with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and The Band. “From The Fire” has a Latin based groove while “Heal My Soul” reveals the band’s capability to channel gospel and soul. “Everybody Gets the Blues Sometimes” is the sort of feel-good folk swing that only a band from Northern California could flavor this way. “Lets Stay Together” is an uplifting plea from a lovesick heart to give it another shot. Then Jonny Mojo takes on a serious steel guitar solo that works in a rockabilly feel. “Village Foliage” is an incredible hybrid of fascinating rhythmic changes and tight composition.

Stones to Sand can also be a jam heavy set of tunes with ripping instrumentals like “7th Ocean.” Tunes like “She’ll Wait (Until the Time is Right)” also reveal the power potential of the double-drum engine of McCartney and Campus, which brings a multi-cultured approach to Achilles Wheel’s rhythm section.  The album’s title song is an impressive instrumental that packages their versatile approach to instrumentation. This soundscape bears an inspirational quality that will affect each listener differently. The closing track “Hallelujah One More Time” is a fine folk tune with ponderous lyrical power as further testament to Kamm’s impressive songwriting.

Fans of rock, folk, blues, and even less-powerful jam bands will all gain something from Stones to Sand. Check out their website and support their music. Currently they don’t gig far outside of California. No doubt national fans are being made and want a chance to see these tunes worked out live in concert.

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