Max Allen Band - Ending Sun CD

The Max Allen Band delivers an exquisite blend of roots rock, jam and lyrical intelligence in this latest release.
Max Allen, with his mixture of soulful guitar, excellent voice and a penchant for entertaining, engaging lyrics has created an exciting release with "Ending Sun."  Joining him in the band is Shaan France on drums and vocals while Dace Robie and Ethan James contribute their talents on fretless bass guitar and bass guitar respectively.  "Ending Sun" begins with the soulful, jubilant strains of "Three Little Words."  Featuring soothing, understated guitar and Allen's silky vocals, this song saunters along with  smooth urgency, reminding me of the best of Ben Harper's work.  The track skips along joyfully, full of vitality and energy as robust guitar highlights the later measures of the song.  "Master Bedroom" is a playful number that blends tones and tenors of Jack Johnson with a dash of homespun Acoustic Syndicate before galloping home on energetic guitar.  Although obvious comparisons might sometimes undercut the originality of a particular artist's work, I think these comparisons bear fruit on the first few tracks of this album.  "Gridlock" is another light hearted number that skips along on the strength of airy guitar and fun vocals before venturing forth into more exploratory waters, spiced with methodical, yearning guitar.  The song progresses into a nicely structured, mathematical jam steeped in the roots of southern rock and muscular guitar.  "Know Your Rights" extols the listener to protect themselves from unfair police practices, utilizing a relaxed reggae groove and smooth, smoldering guitar. 


"Me My Mo Ho" starts with Allen "scat" singing, before settling into a nice bluesy groove, punctuated by relaxed guitar.  The lyrics for "Song for My Guitar" idealize the musician's guitar symbolically as a method for escape from the workaday world, and as a tool to help the musician keep his "nose clean."  The title track of the album is upbeat, lengthy and spiced with acoustic guitar and soulful lyrics.  The track discusses the last days of a dying sun and the memories that writer entertains while watching an event of such magnitude.  The track picks up tempo and gallops home on the strength of guitar, which is a characteristic that signifies the best tracks on this album.  The album closes with a well-executed cover of 2Pac's "California Love" and hilarity ensues.  After a spirited take on 2Pac's vocals, the song transitions into more atmospheric "jam" waters, complete with soulful guitar flourishes.


I have been on a modest sabbatical from Home Grown as of late, as the last year has given me a wealth of material to dissect and discuss, and I was needing time to recharge my writing faculties.  I have reviewed an amazing assortment of discs in that time, but after taking this time off to find new modes of comparison and review, it is a pleasure to come across this album and the Max Allen Band.  "Ending Sun" encompasses a lot of different moods, but the focus on intelligent, well-crooned lyrics and smoldering guitar prove to be quite effective.  Max Allen is one of those Home Grown artists that has the potential for widespread "crossover" appeal, as these songs seem steeped in "tradition," yet feel fresh and vital to the new listener as well.


- by J. Evan Wade