Head of Femur

Great Plains

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We ride leisurely into the Great Plains on a clip-clopping horse, drawn by Head of Femur's dreamy Beatlesesque harmonies and the pull of a trumpet solo. This is the band's third album, and within they pay tribute to their Nebraska home. Over time, Femur had ballooned into an almost unwieldly collective, but now they've slimmed down to a solid rock quintet. That musical transformation is apparent on such coursing songs as "River Ramble" and "Jetway Junior." Even so, the band's orchestral leanings still bob to the surface, tellingly on the rocking, jazzy sax solo that shoots across the latter number. For Femur's head is still in the orchestral clouds, and an entire string and brass section is brought on board for this set. Both are used subtly, however, weaving rich textures and atmospheres throughout the album. The strings add depth and gravitas to the classically inclined "Covered Wagons," the brass of '60s joie de vivre to the R&B flavored "Great Plains," and an exultant air to "Napoleon's Boots." Creating a lushness to the sound, a flash of excitement, or a twist in style, the strings and brass remain integral to Femur's studio sound. If they're the glorious accents, then keyboardist Tyson Thurston is much of the main course. He gives "Where's the Fire" its proggy feel, "Plains" and the insistent "Open the Door Lucille" their barrelling R&B flavor, "Wagons" and "By the Red Fire" a gorgeous, classical edge, while sending "River" coursing into outer space. The guitarists are equally adept, and just as comfortable with Western riffing as searing rock leads or acoustic balladry, while the solid rhythm section unobtrusively underpins it all. From bouncy and infectious pop/rockers to epic ballads, driving rockers to dreamy, musing numbers, Great Plains is an all-encompassing musical realm, a place you'll wish to remain for years to come.

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