With an airy, breezy sound (that only occasionally borders on lite), the Sim Redmond Band's Life Is Water is a Graceland-influenced summer joy. While the music lacks an edge, and Sim Redmond's voice occasionally falls into a caricature of the sensitive world-rocker, there is enough charm here to carry the disc. Much of that has to do with the integration of the mbira into the mix. The melodic African percussion instrument, played by Sim Redmond, dances between water-like drummer Asa Redmond (the frontman's brother) and African-influenced guitarist Jordan Aceto. Aceto, in particular, is also a defining element of the sound, his darting guitar figures living somewhere between arpeggiated leads and rhythm on songs like "All Is Not Lost." The group is less successful when they drop into reggae excursions, such as "500 Miles," on which they are joined by fellow I-Town collective member (and John Brown's Body keyboardist) Nate Richardson on guitar. Richardson also contributes on three other tracks. The lyrics work best when they delve into abstract sketches ("Would you say life is water? It's noisy and timid and strange") rather than more concrete imagery ("Sooner or later, I'll fly. Nowhere to settle down"). The mbira pieces ("D-Fumo," "Pedza") are charming but, perhaps, integrate too much willful eclecticism into their interpretations.
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AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow