Gallagher’s press pitches his band as psych-tinged Americana, but this album’s rock hearkens back more to the ‘70s than the ‘60s, and the roots more to soul than country. Gallagher sings in a high, keening voice that reaches with extra conviction in the most emotional moments, drawing the listener’s ear to regret and sorrow of his laments. The guitar, bass, drums and piano suggest the hearty guitar rock music you would have heard on a mid-70s bill at San Francisco’s Winterland. There’s an echo of the Black Crowes, Lee Michaels and others, but with more boogie and less blues.
Psychedelic touches are found in Jacob Landry’s guitar playing and Gallagher’s impressionistic lyrics. The latter occasionally come into sharp focus with memorable lines such as “… faith and fame / one will keep you honest / the other is just a game.” Even in his most poetic moments, Gallagher sings with the fervor of a preacher, exhorting the listener to break through self-imposed limitations and to create one’s own rock ‘n’ roll gospel. Gallagher’s high voice and enthusiastic delivery might suggest Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon or even Slade’s Noddy Holder, but backed by a band on a mission, the effect is more like Rod Stewart on Jeff Beck’s Truth, or Jeff Bebe in the fictional Stillwater.
Gallagher adds harmonica to the fire-and-brimstone “Shallow Grave” as the rhythm session bashes it out alongside Kirby Hammel’s organ and piano, and the combination of vocal harmonies and hard-edged guitar soloing in “Feel Like Going Home” brings to mind CSN&Y’s Déjà Vu. Landry gets ample time to solo without the songs wandering into jam-band territory, and really lets loose for the closing “1935.” Written and rehearsed in only a few weeks, the album is surprisingly cohesive, doubly so when you realize the band’s only been together a year. Chemistry is key, and Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah have started out with a winning formula. [©2015 Hyperbolium]