Wo, oh, what I want to know, where does the time go? The mellow stylings of 70s rock n’ roll have long since come and gone, dear friends. This is no secret. The Band, The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, well, they’ve all seen better days. Moreover, the aforementioned artists and others of the same ilk have recently been deemed decidedly uncool by many in the music community today. This particular brand of americana has been weighed, measured, and found wanting, so to speak, now often either written off altogether or otherwise patronizingly categorized as little more than quintessential “dad rock.” Given the current landscape, Country Agenda by Alex Bleeker and The Freaks is likely to garner little attention. This, my friends, is a damn shame.
Yes, the record in question, the third by Alex Bleeker and The Freaks, is very much a product of 70s rock n’ roll. It’s a largely laid-back affair and one that relies on conventional instrumentation without exception, featuring no more than guitars, bass, drums, and an organ in support of vocals for the duration. Bleeker’s voice, crackly like a .99 cent vinyl, encapsulates the feel of the romanticized and anachronistic yet archetypal wandering hobo, that of a railroad man on the lam, contentedly scrounging for his next meal. How does it feel, you may ask? Frankly, refreshing.
This is a record for ridin’ the open road and such is made clear from start as album opener “Little Dream I Had” begs a loose yet steady nod of the listener. While most of the record is mellow, standouts “Country Agenda” and “U.H.M.” offer just enough bite to keep the record interesting without breaking the spell or sounding out of place.
The record only falters where the influence of the past becomes too pronounced and the songs begin to take on the qualities of caricature such as on the wannabe goofy but ultimately try-hard and annoying “Turtle Dove.” Fortunately, these moments are few and far between as the songwriting is relaxed and cohesive yet memorable throughout. “The Rest” is my personal favorite as of now, reminiscent of “The Weight” while simultaneously channeling Real Estate, Bleeker’s primary focus and means of employment as a bassist. It’s a modern mellow classic rock classic ready for campfires across America.
Regardless of whether or not you are inclined towards the album’s musical style, I suggest you give it a fair listen. To write it off immediately as vanilla or out of touch would be to miss the rare opportunity to hear a strong effort that relies little on frill. Country Agenda may not be the finest album ever produced but it tickles an aesthetic sensibility that just isn’t that common in music anymore in a well-executed, mild manner. I can see a future with this record and I cannot wait to listen to it again. Over and out.