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Review: Andrew Luttrell Band, Paint by Numbers

Andrew Luttrell Band
Paint by Number$
[Self-released (2012)]

The opening of Andrew Luttrell Band‘s Paint by Number$ (yes, that’s a dollar sign in the title) is a minute and a half of guitar solo. It showcases the band’s most obvious talents: improvisational, retro, jammy folk rock with nods toward The Dead, Knopfler, Neil Young, and many other artists from four or five decades ago. The guitar is so prominent in this track, though, that it hides Luttrell’s clever lyrics on the first listen:

Quiet dawn, breathe upon Auvers-sur-Oise yard
Bold greeting of the day is graced with little disregard
By the church, a sunrise like a burning wick aglow
Fractal rays of light, they shine upon the old chateau
on the landscape plains

Luttrell paints a lot of fine character details with his lyrics, which like those above don’t really form a coherent picture until you’ve made it through the whole song. That’s no doubt an intention, given that painting by numbers gives you a mosaic, much like an impressionistic painting. The paintings (by Luttrell) in the accompanying CD booklet are often abstract in the same way. It’s a deeper theme that holds the record—which has wild, often disjointed stylist swings among the 10 tracks—together.

Although folksy plainspoken requirements seem to come easily throughout, and the smooth The Band-like faux soul of “Three’s a Crowd” is one of the better tracks on the album, on some harder material like “You’re Stealing My Car” and “Sara Sota” (which has Luttrell’s voice filtered through a distortion effect), Luttrell just can’t get mean enough to be convincing. But one of the harder songs, “Draggin’ That Line,” a riff-heavy piece that sounds, musically, like a mid 1970s rock band time traveled to the 1990s and decided to give grunge a go, seems to find the right combination of sound, processing, and melody for his voice in a pure rock setting. The band really locks in on that one, too, whereas the other two harder tracks sound piecemeal.

When the album focuses on the lyrics, though, it’s perfect: “Sister Goes Bad” (a story about a nun leaving her convent), the brilliant closer “Making Senses,” and “Thursday Morning Two Forty Five” (as well as the opener, again) are all composed of masterful strokes.

—Jack Hunter


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