Joe Bourdet – Meadow Rock: Album Review

The mellow sounds of Laurel Canyon are back with Meadow Rock by Joe Bourdet

Release Date:  18th June 2021

Label: Mountain Sounds Recorders

Formats: CD, Streaming, Download

Well – summer is here at last, and, with the June sun beating down on Warwickshire, a mild, warm breeze blowing, but a draconian travel ban in place, it’s wonderful to hear an album that delivers mellow, chilled, Laurel Canyon, sun-drenched pine-covered mountain slopes and deserted Hawaiian beaches right to your back door.  Californian singer/songwriter Joe Bourdet has just released the very thing to do that: his debut album, Meadow Rock.

If, like me, you’re a fan of early 70’s folk and country rock – James Taylor, The Eagles, Mike Nesmith, The Burritos and Crosby, Stills and Nash – then Meadow Rock will definitely tickle your fancy.  It’s an album dripping with soft acoustic guitars, divine slide and pedal steel, and vocal harmonies to die for.  Joe Bourdet is a highly accomplished acoustic and electric guitarist (he cites George Harrison, Joe Walsh, Duane Allman and David Lindley as his main influences), a proud possessor of one of those special, tuneful, versatile and deeply mellow southern Californian voices, and he’s chosen a set of formidable, deeply talented and like-minded musicians to help forge this outstanding album.  In the wise words of Martin Ruddock of Shindig Magazine, Meadow Rock is “The most chilled thing not served over ice.”  I couldn’t agree more.  And, what’s more, it’s a sheer delight to listen to.

Recorded and mixed at Joe’s home studio in Los Angeles, with help from Joe’s long-time collaborator Jason Soda, Meadow Rock is an album of songs inspired by the mountains and the natural surroundings of California.  All the instruments that you’ll hear on the album are real. There are no computer-generated sounds or samples and the result is the perfect album for a laid-back summer afternoon.

Opening track Songbird Revisited, one of three singles extracted from the album (so far) sets the mood, with a soft, chilled vibe.  Acoustic guitar takes the lead, and the tasty slide guitar touches provide a country feel.  Unwritten Story, the album’s current single, is soulful and slightly harder-edged and this time the tune is driven along by Joe’s Hammond organ.  The song comes over like a softer cousin to Chicken Shack’s version of I’d Rather Go Blind and the all-pervading mellowness is never lost.

The album’s first single, amongst The Pines is a particular favourite.  It’s one of several tracks that strongly evoke James Taylor’s Carolina In My Mind and the subtle drum/bass backing, Dave’s Baine’s wonderful mandolin and Joe’s harmonies all add to the listening experience.  Things get slightly rockier with Call You Friend, a song on which Joe’s electric guitar steps into the spotlight and to which Mimi Michel adds some extra special harmony touches.

Joe’s sublime slide guitar work gives Seamist – another of the album’s real highlights – a distinctly Hawaiian feel.  It’s another of the songs that remind me of James Taylor and it’s perhaps the laziest, most chilled-out song about the beach and surfing that I’ve ever heard. Asong that forces listeners to close their eyes and dream of a tropical beach…

Mimi Michel returns to provide more of her exquisite harmonies on El Capitan, a song inspired by the Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Central California, Joe’s home territory.  It’s a beautifully structured song with some fantastic pedal steel contributions from Tim Walker and irresistible acoustic guitar lines that link the verses and the chorus and it describes Joe’s sense of “deeper metaphysical vibrations amid memories of past visits with loved ones.

Joe’s acoustic guitar and Rob Douglas’s tasteful double bass manage to achieve a slight Mexican feel on the album’s only cover – a remarkably soft and pared-back take on The Beachwood Sparks’ Morning Light, before we move along to the delightful Lost Along The Way.  Vocal and instrumental duties are shared with co-writer Alana Amram, and the song features more wonderful vocal harmonies.  It’s another song with an idyllic beach setting and is a piece that you’ll want to put on repeat play.

Closing track Mantra is probably the album’s biggest production.  Vocal responsibilities are handled by guests Amy Blaschke, Wayne Faler and Mimi Michel. Joe and Jason Soda throw in some inter-weaving lead guitars and the overall effect is of Crosby, Stills Nash and Young at the height of their powers – a wonderful way to close a great album. 

Meadow Rock is definitely an album that will appeal to anyone with a liking for early 70s singer/songwriter material, country rock, folk/rock or, let’s be honest, any form of nice, laid back, well-played and well-produced music.  Give it a listen – you’ll love it!

Listen to Songbird Revisited – The album’s opening track – here:

Joe Bourdet Online: Website/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Bandcamp/ YouTube

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