Cosmic Rough Riders

Deliverance

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AllMusic Review by

Daniel Wylie and Stephen Fleming certainly wear their collective influences on their sleeves, but that doesn't have to be a criticism, and in the case of their striking, out-of-nowhere debut album, it is an entirely captivating trait. As curious as it is to imagine a couple Glaswegian fellows calling on the same musical gods as California bands such as the Byrds, CSNY, and the Eagles did 30 years before them, Cosmic Rough Riders accomplished just that on Deliverance, a recording so engrossing that any criticisms or charges of imitation that could be leveled at it are immediately rendered irrelevant. Full of glassily plucked acoustic guitars crisp with rural, sun-baked charm and angelic chorale harmonies that Crosby, Stills, and Nash themselves would be hard-pressed to match, it is as much Hollywood Hills as it is Scotland Highlands, but that does nothing to obscure the brilliant luster the album exudes. Wylie and Fleming spin a love of the drowsy late-'60s and early-'70s Laurel Canyon vibe into pure country-pop gold. "Emily Darling" would have been one of the best songs of 1971, the country melody morphing midway through into a long, jazzy coda complete with the same gorgeous wordless vocals that David Crosby once used to achieve mystical perfection. What makes the song such a phenomenal accomplishment -- and it is a sentiment that holds for the album as a whole -- is that it also happens to be one of the best songs of 1999. Deliverance is loaded end to end with exceptional songwriting, from the opening "Ungrateful" and harrowing "Rape Seed Children" to the final idealistic strains of "Garden of Eden" and "New Day Dawning." Wylie and Fleming reinvent Golden State riffs with ease, a modern extension of both the sound and the spirit of their influences rather than a direct throwback. They look forward as often as they look back, and the modern sensibility is felt in the unremitting hopefulness many of the lyrics convey and the frequent inclusion of nods to peers such as Beck ("Glastonbury Revisited"), Teenage Fanclub (bright, jangling guitars), and the Jayhawks (the harmonies throughout). Such modern accouterments as drum loops and sound samples also gloss the surface of some songs, but Deliverance is an album that transcends superficial considerations such as heritage and style. When the high, strained vocals of "New Day Rising" emerge singing the line "Yesterday fades away," it is one of those exultant but fragile moments -- the last remnants of sun glowing over the horizon -- where life feels wholly complete.

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