If you’ve paid any attention to the Dayton/Cincinnati music scene over the last two decades, you’ve probably encountered the music of Andrew Gabbard at some point. He’s played garage rock in Thee Shams, explored cosmic American psych with Buffalo Killers, and released several solo projects under various guises throughout the years. Most recently, Gabbard and his brother Zachary (also a member of Thee Shams and Buffalo Killers) have been lighting up stages as part of the touring band for fellow Ohio rockers The Black Keys. But Homemade, Gabbard’s first LP since joining the Colemine/Karma Chief roster of artists, is his first release under the name Andrew Gabbard (rather than Andy). That subtle change hints at the fact that the album finds Gabbard turning over a new leaf, bringing together all the various influences he’s absorbed over the years.
Musically speaking Homemade weaves together a variety of classic sounds, primarily drawn from the 60s and 70s: the post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, Neil Young, The Byrds, Harry Nilsson, and Emitt Rhodes (who Gabbard covers on the album’s final track, “Promises I’ve Made”) are woven into the DNA of this record, but the influence never feels heavy-handed. Gabbard’s catchy vocal melodies are enhanced by stacks of backing harmonies, layered overtop of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, bouncy keyboards, fuzzy electric leads, and a solid rhythm section. Little touches like the strings on “Instant Trancer” or the pedal steel on “Red Bear,” meanwhile, demonstrate Gabbard’s expert ear for arrangements that serve the song rather than the other way around.
Appropriately enough, the album’s lyrics often touch on domestic themes that mirror its title and homespun feel. Whether he’s singing about a beloved teacher passing away (“Mrs. Fitz”), focusing on what matters in the wake of a pandemic and social upheaval (“Wake Up, Brother”), or (not) getting high (“Getting High”), the words are personal but almost always relatable. Other tracks get a little more impressionistic and abstract, especially on the second half of the album (“Cherry Sun,” “Jade Bonsai Garden,” “Hot Poutine”), but use intriguing imagery and storylines to keep things interesting.
With Homemade, Andrew Gabbard has created an album that hits just the right balance of warm intimacy and extroverted pop songcraft. That won’t surprise long-time fans, since Gabbard has been cranking out quality tunes for years now, but even they may be impressed with how well this album hangs together. Now that he’s got the Colemine Records crew backing his efforts, hopefully a lot of new fans will be impressed too.
Key Tracks: “Instant Trancer” / “Cherry Sun” / “Wake Up, Brother”
Artists With Similar Fire: Brian Wilson / Neil Young / Richard Swift
Andrew Gabbard Review History: Fluff (2015)