Tonight at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub, wildly impressive Cincy Soul/Pop/Rock quartet The Guitars celebrate the release of their new EP, High Action. Local Folk faves The Tillers open up the free show. Below is a review of the release, a slightly shorter version of which appeared in this week's CityBeat. You can also check out a track from the EP, so you can hear that I'm not lying when I say this is definitely one of the best releases by a local act this year.
High Action, the first "official" release by The Guitars, is an absolute stunner, seven songs’ worth of vintage Pop majesty prepared and delivered with an authentic soulfulness and sophistication. It’s glaringly obvious that the four Guitars members are hardcore record-heads and serious students of classic eras American Soul and Pop. From the masterful arrangements and ace songwriting to the spot-on performances and the general warmth of the recordings themselves, The Guitars’ inspirations are fairly evident. While it might be hard to initially stop yourself from pointing out what songs or performers various moments of High Action remind your of, the band quickly dispels any thoughts that they’re just mimicking a K-Tel Best of ’60s/’70s R&B and Pop compilation.
The Guitars take cues from the R&B singles pumped out of Motown, Stax and Phil Spector’s factory, as well as the grand Pop masterpieces of songwriting/arrangement legends like Burt Bacharach and some of the slinkier, smoother Soul of the ’70s. But it’s as if they’ve simply absorbed the lessons from those iconic early records into their DNA. They're looking at the Mona Lisa and painting it with sincere, deep respect for the original artist using their own variously-informed skills, not simply tracing it or making a Xerox copy.
Today, Classic Soul is in a revival period, but The Guitars stand among the best by keeping focus on the music and not dressing up and pretending to be some kind of show revue band from 1964. The Guitars’ brand of Neo Soul has a real feel that many others miss out on, likely because, as when Ska and Swing were musical trends in the ’90s, those acts come off more like they’re trying on a costume, whereas The Guitars seem to live and breathe the musical ideas behind the originators. They understand what's going on between the grooves of those classic records, not just what's on the cover.
Check out the High Action track "Piltdown Man":
Visit The Guitars' website here for more on the band.