Any 21st-century indie band that can this successfully channel their inner Joe Walsh is a friend of mine. Not that I’m a particular Joe Walsh fan; it’s more the principal of the thing. This is not a sound I expect to come out of my MP3 player in the year 2009. It’s a simple, grounded sound, a mid-tempo loper with a light acoustic rhythm at the front of the mix, sometimes messing playfully with the beat, with a heavy bass line underneath and a resonant electric guitar that interjects kind of whenever you’ve forgotten there’s an electric guitar hanging around.
And then there’s no avoiding that voice. This Cincinnati trio features brothers Andrew and Zachary Gabbard on lead guitar and bass, respectively, and both sing, so I’m not sure who is who here, but whoever is offering up that achy, upward-straining, and yet decidedly masculine tenor is paying uncanny homage to James Gang-era Walsh. But this is no lifeless imitation; “Huma Bird,” while completely relaxed, manages to soar with confidence and verve. Only fitting, as a huma bird, by the way, is a mythological creature, from a Sufi fable, which was said to live stratospherically high above the earth and never in its life touch the ground or even a tree. The bird laid its egg from so high up that the baby could grow inside, peck its way out, and manage to learn to use its wings just before the egg smashed to the ground. Some might find a metaphor in this. (Weird side note, not necessarily metaphorical: the song starts fading, for no apparent reason, 50 seconds before its official ending, and leaves us with a good 12 seconds of complete silence.)