String Cheese Incident - One Step Closer CD

One Step Closer is a unique collective from all angles. Each the band members contributed at least 2 songs to this album, with some of this material being new while other songs been road tested. The String Cheese Incident has taken all the years of touring and brought together a full studio sound of distinctive songs. For their fifth album, SCI has further proven themselves as musicians with talent, insight, and some old fashioned innovation.
The level of production on the CD is well intended and creatively brought out to the band's many strengths. One obvious place to check this out is through Bill Nershi's opening acoustic guitar on "Give Me the Love." Producer, Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan's "Oh Mercy", The Neville Brothers "Yellow Moon") became a sixth member of the band taking up residency in Boulder so that SCI would feel comfortable conferring with him in the writing process. And it worked. The new songs such as "Big Compromise", co-written by Nashville star Jim Lauderdale and SCI guitarist Nershi, sound like a country band could have played them. The dobro work on this track is outstanding and the result is songwriting that is more mature and grounded. Another Lauderdale/Nershi collaboration, "Farther", also shows how well the band plays together. Mandolinist Michael Kang and keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth showcase their talents on their respective instruments. Hollingsworth's piano playing on "Silence in your Head" really stands out as a song I am dying to hear live. "Drive" is perfect for just that. It's one of those classic sing along songs that you can't help but play air guitar to on your steering wheel while cruising down the road. "It ain't over, ain't it good to be alive, it ain't over, just close your eyes and drive."

I liked the album's layout with the newer songs first and the road tested songs as closers. A few years ago, Hollingsworth had the chance to sit down and write some with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. One of the collaborations, "45th of November" is powerfully written and well produced on the album. The vocals on the song show another level of intensity of the band. The harmonies are tight and Jason Hann, percussionist adds some great new texture to a song that has been played for a few years. It is good to hear what bands can do to freshen songs that have been on the road. SCI / Burn combo does a great job of making studio versions of songs we are used to hearing live. Two of drummer Michael Travis' songs get studio makeovers. "Rainbow Serpent and "Swampy Waters" sound fresh and funky and very danceable. "Swampy Waters" is the quintessential rock song with a hard guitar riff with Hollingsworth showing off his jazz influences on the keyboards.

The last song on the CD co-written by Lauderdale and bassist Keith Moseley has a Neil Young Harvest Moon feel. The lap steel by Nershi and the harmonica add great produced studio sounds from a band that really plays as one.

The whole disc is filled with guys who takes turns and enjoys playing together. . Malcolm Burn's production and the band's true songwriting spirit shine. SCI is "One Step Closer" to making the ultimate band album.

- Jeffrey Skolnick