The Coals - A Happy Animal
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A Happy Animal (Self-released, 2013)

The Coals

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

With "A Happy Animal," their second album, The Coals further establish their country rock pastiche, a sound flush with old school references and roots reverent ambitions. Named after a local watering hole in their hometown of Los Angeles, "A Happy Animal" is unabashedly unpretentious, even when it comes to content, proven by the fact that the album is only a modest eight songs long. Nevertheless, whether it's considered a full-length or an EP, Jason Mandell, the band's producer, songwriter and musical mainstay doesn't scrimp when it comes to exercising his intentions. There's not a loser entry in the bunch, and in fact every track offers evidence that The Coals continue to do their influential forebears proud.

Still, even with their plucky approach - or perhaps because of it - the band doesn't take to showing off or exhibiting any unconstrained bravado. The album's initial entry, Redeem Me, underscores their earnest intents with a decidedly heads-down attitude, one which offers a sense of humility and sincerity. The slow saunter of Let Me Down Easy and the remorseful strains of Baseline Blues also suggest sentiments that are both tarnished and tempered. Likewise, an easy yet evocative Dirt Road - a Woody Guthrie meets Pete Seeger sound-alike - also instills the sense that "A Happy Animal" isn't exactly jumping with joy.

Even so, that's not to say there's not some respite. The jaunty "Lord Lord Lord" and the south of the border serenade Maria give some little bit of distraction and help keep the mood at an even keel. Ultimately, with their loyalty to form and devotion to design, the music bodes well for the band's ongoing trajectory. That's promise bestowed even though The Coals have only begun to mine their full potential.

CDs by The Coals

A Happy Animal, 2013

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