In The Wake

Tea Leaf Green

Greenhouse Records 2013

Review by David Bowling

San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green is an independent band that has been on the road and in the studio for nearly 17 years. It has produced gritty and catchy rock and roll, while carving out a nice niche for itself on the American indie music scene.

The group began as a party band during the second half of the 1990s. Now, keyboardist Trevor Garrod, guitarist Josh Clark, drummer Scott Rager, bassist Reed Mathis, and percussionist Cochrane McMillan have released In The Wake, which is the most personal and in many ways the most powerful album of their career.

All the songs are originals, as Clark (4 tracks), Garrod (6), and Mathis (3) explore themes of their life journeys such as loss, separation, and ultimately healing that the passage of time brings. The lyrics are encased in catchy and sometimes melodic rock and roll with a touch of strings and horns in places.

“Penny Saved” is the album’s strongest track; it fuses a piano with some strings and places it on top of a solid bass beat. “All Our Love” uses the strings in a more delicate manner as they fill in the gaps in the more rock-oriented sound.  “Give Me One More Chance” has a soul flavor to it and is an uplifting piece of music.

I don’t know if it’s the best but the most interesting music is Josh Clark’s space trilogy, for want of a better description. “Space Hero Pt. 2,” “Space Hero Pt. 3 (Forever in Space),” and “…Pt. 4 (Letters Home)” are joined by concept and would have been connected by the music had they not been interspersed throughout the album and instead presented together in a mini-suite style. When listening to them in a row, it is a better experience. The use of an acoustic guitar among the keyboards before transitioning toward a harder sound and connecting the songs together is an adventurous leap for the band.

In The Wake catches Tea Leaf Green in transition and it’s good to see a band explore new directions at times without leaving their past party/jam roots completely behind. It has produced a thoughtful album that hopefully will serve as a foundation as it moves into the future.

Rating: ***1/2