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Boris Garcia - Once More Into the Bliss
CD Review by Jud Conway on 10/20/2008   

Boris Garcia has a few things in common with musical cousins Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd; Like Tull, his music possesses an organic folksiness that provides the framework for well-executed, well-placed "jams." Like Floyd, Garciaís original material is culled from the brain trust of several talented principles. And, like both Tull and Floyd, Boris Garcia is not a stage name for any individual performer. Rather, he is the collective alter ego of five Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, musicians who perform an intoxicating blend of Americana jamband bluegrass folk rock. Coined by multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Jeff Otto (ukulele, bass, guitar, vocals), the name refers to the bandís blend of eastern influences, western song structures, and Grateful Dead-styled instrumental breaks. Nowhere is this spirit of diversity more evident than on the bandís third release for Porchwerk Records, Once More Into the Bliss.

Produced by Railroad Earthís Tim Carbone, Once More Into the Bliss features eleven original songs written by Otto and band mates Gene Smith (recorder, harmonica, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Bob Stirner (acoustic and electric guitar, bass, vocals). Executing the new material along with Otto, Smith, and Sterner, are core members Stephen Ferraro (drums and percussion) and Bud Burroughs (mandolin, bouzouki, piano, accordion, glockenspiel, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, Melletron, RMI electra-piano). Several prominent guest artists appear on the record; including pedal steel player Buddy Cage of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who turns in a haunting performance on the Stirner-penned "Other Side," former Grateful Dead vocalist Donna-Jean Godchaux-McKay, and producer Tim Carbone, who contributes violin, viola, and background vocals.

Jeff Ottoís "Holiday" opens the disc with a Caribbean-flavored riff that compliments the songís inviting melody. Tracks like "She Wasnít Born to Follow" and "Through the Window" are propelled by mandolin rhythms and contain countrified elements reminiscent of the late Ď60ís Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. "River Man" sounds like a lost Heavy Horses-era Jethro Tull cut. The Celtic-flavored "Ballad of Captain Jack" would be equally at home on an old Clancy Brothers record or John Barleycorn-era Traffic release. The album closes with the Gene Smith contribution "Beautiful Again," featuring a gorgeous string arrangement, courtesy of Bud Burroughs.

Boris Garciaís Once More Into the Bliss is the rare gem of an album that manages to sound cohesive through its entirety, while each individual track remains singular and refreshing. Ultimately, the bandís main challenges will be to replicate the albumís spontaneity in a live setting and to deconstruct the creative processes undertaken with Carbone for application in future studio ventures. If Gene Smithís lyrics hold any truth, "Everything is going to be fine in the end," and, Boris Garcia is "good at starting over."

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