Highway 9

What in Samhill?

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Though their roots are deep in Springsteen country, Highway 9 presents a sound on their debut album that combines Asbury Park soul with alt-country Americana. It's actually a comfortable blend; singer Peter Scherer delivers with the kind of passion you need to survive the competitive Jersey shore clubs, even as Gordon Brown and Rob Tanico add backup harmonies that suggest a rough-edged variation on the Eagles. The band, meanwhile, plays energetically with a stage-bred flair that reflects local tastes, yet with guitar solos drawn more from a Southern sensibility. Their lyrics also straddle this stylistic divide. "The days are never-ending and the miles are long," they proclaim in "Had Enough," a Midwestern vision that contrasts with the industrial-sounding "orange dawn" and reference to falling in love "to a Springsteen tune" in "Between Your Eyes and Mine." These two sides to Highway 9 are in no way contradictory; in fact, they infuse What in Samhill? with a kind of depth that eludes some bands more settled in just one tradition. The only drawback on the album, a tendency toward textural sameness derived in part from Scherer's limited range and unvaried Don Henley timbre, is addressed by tasteful infusions of orchestra strings on "Yesterday Came out All Round" and "Tug of War" and the committed, intense performances on every other track.

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