By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
A couple of months ago, there was another disc like this that turned my head: the Thorns — a supergroup (well, to indie pop fans) comprised of Shawn Mullins, Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge. They got together by happenstance and made a record of acoustic-driven songs loaded with three-part vocalizing. It's a whimsical love letter to the harmony groups that inspired them growing up — America, CSN, the Beach Boys. It's summery, carefree, easy.
The same could be said of the latest Hanson disc, an eight-song acoustic preview of the eagerly awaited third studio outing ("Underneath," due next spring) from the hit Tulsa trio. As much as these brothers are influenced by the spirit of '50s rock 'n' roll, their songwriting on this effort is closer to early '70s soft-rock, especially in this unplugged presentation, recorded live early this summer with a small audience at Tulsa's historic Church Studio. Several of the songs have the same lilt and sensitivity of England Dan & John Ford Coley or, more prominently, Bread (led by another famous Tulsan, David Gates). "Deeper," a powerful and passionate song sung by Isaac, is an example, and the title track, "Underneath," is a remarkably layered and carefully constructed ballad that would prick up Jimmy Webb's ears.
The flip side of this pleasantness is that, even though two-thirds of Hanson is now of legal age, these songwriters are still very, very young. These new songs are not trite, but they are quite light. That is, they breeze on about indistinct emotions and vague promises and lots of seizing the summertime moment. Not a bad thing, by any means — just a warning to the curious that Hanson hasn't exactly started mining much substance.
For instance, this disc sounds like the Indigo Girls' debut not only for its multiple acoustic guitars but because occasionally they throw a lyric at us straight out of a junior-high notebook. Example, from "Love Somebody to Know": "Bubbalicious is what she likes to chew / and Andy Warhol gave her her point of view." Then again, that could be an absolutely ingenious examination of the various definitions of pop. Maybe there are seeds of substance here, after all, but for now, as Taylor sings in "Penny and Me," it's all just a nice ride with the radio up and the windows down.
"Underneath Acoustic" is available only through the band's Web site (cf,fgc www.hanson.netcf,hell ) and at the concerts during this month's acoustic Hanson tour, which begins Saturday. (Alas, the closest the tour gets to Tulsa is Denver on Aug. 24.)
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.