It's interesting what four years and a shift in focus and personnel will do for a band. On Starry Mind, their second Drag City offering, Pat Gubler's P.G. Six changes gears, transforming his formerly prevalently acoustic songs with some electric backing into rock songs with some acoustic backing. Veterans Bob Bannister, Debby Schwartz, and Robert Dennis are back, but this time Bannister is playing second guitar and Schwartz plays bass as well as sings. Gubler shows his hand on the album opener, a new arrangement of a traditional Irish song entitled "January." Given the repetitive nature of the changes, and even in the melody, it wouldn't be hard to envision vintage Pentangle taking this one on acoustically. In P.G. Six's electric incarnation, its trance-like groove suggests Crazy Horse with a three-part harmony. On the originals, Gubler's material still retains some relaxed, easy lynchpins of a more staid folk sound, though in volume and dynamics this new approach makes the transition to indie rock beautifully. Check the guitar interplay on "Letter," and the chunky jazz chord voicings in the instrumental interludes. Six-string goddess Tara Key guests on this track, and her squalling feedbacked lead, while kept in the back of the mix, nevertheless ups the track's intensity level immeasurably. "Palace," with lyrics by Matt Gomm, is a midtempo rock tune with syncopated electric guitar introducing the melody before it slips pastorally into country rock terrain. Schwartz's backing vocal and Bannister's guitar add elaborate textures that are presented in a restrained manner. "Talk Me Down," sounds like P.G. Six channeling the Band with sweeter vocals."Crooked Way," is a spacy, incantatory psych tune with airy vocals, shimmering cymbals, and an organ hovering in the backdrop. Again, the twinned vocals are easy, loose, and relaxed, as it begins to take shape and build a groove. "This Song," which closes the set, is the knottiest thing here and also the most dramatic. Gubler strains to get the emotion across, his voice near cracking even as a the instrumental tension rises and falls behind him. It's a song R.E.M. wishes it could still write. Starry Mind offers a more expansive sound than anything P.G. Six has given us previously. The songwriting is more disciplined, and the arrangements and production are tighter. Together they create a seamless but welcome change in aesthetic direction.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek