It's been several years since the Mother's Hips played their "last" show, and while I stood in the crowd ready to morn the loss of my favorite band, apparently somebody forgot to tell them the gig was up. And while they did head off in separate directions for awhile to pursue solo projects, collectively they've since released two albums, and their latest project, Pacific Dust, which dropped last week, may just be their best record yet. In a career that's spanned over 15 years, like a good Port they only seem to be getting better with age.
After first stepping on stage in Chico's Sierra Nevada-soaked saloons in the mid-'90s, to gigs opening for the likes of Johnny Cash and Wilco, to a decade of playing 250 to 300 shows a year, the Hips have been a constant in the West Coast music scene. But as they demonstrated when they announced they'd be going on "hiatus," being a hard-charging, bar-playing road band can wear on you. Thankfully, they didn't disappear from the scene for too long.
Their live show has always been undeniable, but like so many acts that dominate the stage, their studio work hasn't always translated. That's not to say their recordings haven't been good, after all they've helped power many a road trip, but it was almost as if they weren't quite sure what kind of sound they were looking forcountry, rock, or bluegrass. But with Pacific Dust they seem to be more on point, tighter and sharper, making it the most cohesive, dynamic endeavor yet.
Between Tim Bluhm's lyrical songwriting and Greg Loiacono brilliant musicianship, from beginning to end there's not a note or harmony out of place. From the ear-catching opening track "White Falcon Fuzz," to the rerecorded "Third Floor Story," to the ballad "Raining Gravel," the album boasts perfect pacing and is fantastically representative of how good this relatively obscure little quartet really is. There's an appropriate blance of soaring guitar solos, trippy jams, and more sensitive ballads. And again, the songwriting, some of the lyrical twists are turns are just plain poetic.
Whether you're planning a road trip down Highway 1 or just looking for something new to download, I implore you to open up your iTunes, plunk down $9.99, and take a sniff of Pacific Dust.