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Smokin' Granny


Listening to the music of Smokin' Granny is a lot like going to the fair; you can't keep focused on one thing for more than a few seconds, but the kaleidoscopic effect is worth any vertiginous discomfort. In fact, the music is so freakin' schizo that you continuously wonder if the disc has shifted in your player since the previous song. The quintet's first full-length release since 1999's Sirius Matter, (which contained the alliterative masterpiece "Barnacle Bob's Big Bang Bonanza"), Tarth Shooke finds the prog/fusion quintet once again meandering in seemingly random directions yet still managing to keep a consistent thought line for the entirety of the disc. Shuffling syncopated, super-complex rhythms with some old-fashioned 4/4 numbers, the band manages to keep the listener engaged and, luckily, never falls into the trap of becoming full-on noisemakers. If this instrumental combo had a lead singer, it would be Todd Barbee, who not only conjures shrill runs on his saxophone, but also creates more precise and weird scales by employing the WX-7 MIDI wind controller, a high-tech electronic horn. It's this juxtaposition of organic and synthetic that makes the band's sound both unique and appealing. Guitarist Dave Oskardmay parries the electric stylings of Steve Hatch's six-string with his own acoustic guitar, assembling deft constructs that wander from intense and complicated to mellow and lazy. Hold on to your equilibrium, folks, and make sure all seatbelts are fastened.

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