Review: Snake Oil & Harmony – Hurricane Riders
Zero One Entertainment (Feb 28th 2020)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
This is Snake Oil & Harmony’s debut album. When reviewing debut albums there can be a degree of apprehension as to what you are getting. However, with this debut album, it is more about the intrigue of hearing what two seasoned pros such as Danny Vaughn and Dan Reed will come up with! Being a huge fan of both guys in terms of their individual band and solo efforts, the key question for me was, ‘Will the whole be greater than the sum of the parts?’
From the opening bars of ‘The Lines Are Open‘ and lush acoustic guitar you know what you are getting. With the guys trading lead vocals from verse-to-verse and the lush harmonies, the song has distinctive elements of the solo work of both, while creating something original. We move quickly into ‘Last Man Standing‘ with Danny opening the vocals then joined by Dan on harmonies. And what a glorious hook in the chorus.
The emotive ‘Aberfan‘, which is about the 1966 mining disaster in the village of the same name, is next up. While this song sounds more like a Dan Reed solo song, it actually evokes more of a Crowded House/Neil Finn feel and is a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in that disaster. ‘Dance In The Heart Of The Sun‘ has Latin American undertones to it and could be a great number to dance to! The pace drops a little for ‘Another Reason‘, and it seems to have late sixties vibe to the rhythm and bounces along very nicely indeed. With Dan taking the lead vocals it has a really lush feel to it.
‘Damned If You Do‘ has an obvious country influence with what sounds like lap steel guitar with Danny taking the vocal duties and Dan providing backing and refrains. In structure and melody it has feel reminiscent of early Eagles and to great effect too. The light country stylings continue with the superb ‘Where The Water Goes‘ which has one of the best choruses I have heard in quite some time. Trading lead vocals across the verses seamlessly and equally so in their backing of each other, this epitomises how comfortable these two appear to be musically with each other.
‘Canonball‘ takes the country feel to the next level with some superb Americana playing and arrangements and is Eaglesque for me. We stray back into more straight-forward melodic acoustic material with penultimate track ‘Save The Day‘. It is one of the few tracks with electric guitar and reinforces just how versatile both of these guys are in terms of their musicality. It is fitting that we return to the acoustic feel of the opening song and the trading of lead vocal licks on an almost line-by-line basis. ‘Little Hercules‘ wholly epitomises the sheer class of this album and the lush chorus just reinforces this class further. Superb!
I am sure a whole bunch of people must have thought when these guys started singing together it would be but a fleeting moment in time. As I usually explain when working with a band, if the musicians bear in mind the basic equation of singer = Knob, we should be fine! Let’s face it, two very successful band leaders and solo artists and both sing lead vocals – just how long would it be before the egos kicked in and it ended in disaster?
Wrong! What this album demonstrates is musically and possibly personally how comfortable these two hugely talented gentleman are with each other. If you like the band and solo efforts of these gentlemen then this is absolutely essential. If you’re not that familiar with one or both – this is a superb introduction. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. Sublime! Just absolutely sublime! Thank you gentleman – I look forward to seeing you at the Glasgow gig.