Grateful Dead will be the first two words that come to mind when you listen to the first bars of Only Lonely, and it is a feeling that won't leave you during a good part of Summerlong, an album in which Americana and psychedelia shake hands like in the best moments of Jerry Garcia´s band. It could therefore be said that they are a bit lacking in originality, but what about the songs? There are plenty of songs and we could say that this is the best album the Dead have released since Jerry Garcia's wonderful solo debut in 1972, an album that, together with the Workingman's Dead and American Beauty diptych, is the mirror in which this nostalgic wonder is seen. Is it derivative? No doubt. Does it have quality? Plenty. If you are looking for new sounds, this is not your album. If you want to listen to a band having a great time and playing great songs, don't hesitate a moment and get a copy now.
Ripley Johnson, leader of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo, forgets about the fuzz and psych-rock of his own bands and focuses on the albums that were heard in his home when he was a kid, mainly the aforementioned Grateful Dead. He adds a steel pedal and a mandolin to the psychedelic flavors of his Eastwood Airline '59 3P, possibly through his 1968 Fender Twin Reverb, and he pulls the best album of his career out of his sleeve with a made-up band (basically a solo project) and a project he hasn't given any kind of promotion to.
Only Lonely opens the album and caresses like the soft breeze of a summer morning. It sounds like the best country rock of all time, of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo or Teach Your Children but also of Beachwood Sparks. Empty Bottles continues with those ‘classic aromas’, until 3:20 when one of those jams so dear to the Dead starts, with Johnson distilling the best from Garcia's playing. Then comes Real Long Gone, a song that reminds one of Dylan of 65, that of Maggie's Farm and Tombstone Blues, and is the most hectic moment of the album.
But, in general, the record continues to move in calmer terrains, always with a taste for the more classic flavours. Morning Light is one of those songs capable of drawing a smile to any listener's face. Johnson's work on the guitar, both steel and electric pedal, is a real delight.
At the end come two long songs with extensive instrumentals where Johnson’s work on the six strings shines again. Wee Hours begins with some chords from the Velvets of '69, which had Doug Yule replacing John Cale, but then the voice comes in and echoes of the West Coast return. The result is a strange cross between the New York band and the accents of Garcia’s psychedelic guitar, and is another of the highlights of the album. Even better is the closing Wildflowers, a song in which the drummer's Motorik accent is emphasized and which sounds like Jerry Garcia leading the Neu! of Hallogallo.
In short, a relaxed album with a summery feeling, perfect to listen to while driving on long dusty roads, and one can't help but reflect that it has been a long and strange (and wonderful) trip to listen to Summerlong. It may not change your life but it is as refreshing as a breeze on the seashore, and if you have even the slightest interest in the genre you can't help but play it again as soon as you hear it.