In Between Now and Then

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Bursting with island grooves, passionate vocals, and tasteful instrumentation, In Between Now and Then is the musical equivalent of every friendly hippie you've ever met. It's accommodating and full of entertaining stories, and will get even the sourest of pusses on the dancefloor. Released just in time for summer break, the LP is such a rousing, good-timing affair, it might as well open the fridge and grab a beer for you. This is exactly the kind of musical hospitality O.A.R. has been providing since it first emerged on the college jam band scene in the late '90s. Building a reputation through energetic live gigs and a strong Internet file-sharing presence, the band finally opted for a jump to the big leagues, no doubt encouraged by the success of rootsy types like John Mayer. But unlike Mayer, who too often suggests a younger Dave Matthews, O.A.R. -- Marc Roberge (vocals/guitar), Jerry DePizzo (saxophone), Richard On (guitar), Chris Culos (drums), and Benj Gershman (bass) -- is more akin to the uplifting folk-pop of Guster or David Gray, albeit with a substantial debt to Bob Marley. Helmed by longtime O.A.R. collaborator John AlagĂ­a, In Between Now and Then wisely stays close to what the band does best, and doesn't worry about trying to impress new listeners with bells and whistles. Instead, it's sort of like an invitation for the rest of the world to join the party O.A.R. has been playing for its fans all these years. From the insistent reggae breeze of "Dareh Meyod" and irresistibly peppy "Risen" (sample lyric: "I never knew life could taste so good!") to the gentle jamming of ballad "James," In Between ambles through 13 tracks with the comfort and ease of a countryside bike ride. O.A.R. veterans will recognize first single "Hey Girl" as a holdover from the band's early days; it appears here in re-recorded form. Elsewhere, the band dabbles in free jamming ("Anyway," "Whose Chariot?"), but never does so in such an obtuse way as to alienate the casual backyard fan. In Between Now and Then is sure to have O.A.R.'s old fans -- of which there are many -- playing Frisbee with its soon-to-be-numerous new ones.

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