Trees Of Mystery

American Catapult

Independent release, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


A single verse of the opening song ("This Time") is all it takes to recognize this band's name is no coincidence. Yes, "Catapult" is the name of a particularly keening, propulsive Counting Crows song, and yes, the boys of American Catapult are clearly big CC fans.

By the time the opener chugs into its fadeout and lead singer/songwriter Tom Townsend chant/shouts "Time / time / time / time" at the high end of his register like any right-minded Adam Duritz disciple would, I'm left wondering if the band has any other tricks in their bag. Fortunately for all involved, they do. In fact, their natural style seems a bit rawer and more alt-country/Americana than the Crows, with nice harmony vocals on cuts like "This Time" and "Easily Distracted" by drummer Shawn Winters.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Once past the opener, the rest of the first quarter of Trees Of Mystery emphasizes lyrical imagery over instrumental fire, but then you get to "Whirlwind," and the rest of the band -- Winters, bassist Terry Overlin and guitarist Mike Bock -- get their chances to shine while navigating its surging melody. "Crooked Straight" brings the focus back to Townsend's words with a self-conscious but occasionally funny lament that's half about a girl and half about the trials of lyric-writing. As to affirm his alt-country intentions, Townsend name-checks "no depression" in the lilting, cleverly constructed "Goodbye," then returns to Duritz-land in the stop-start-chant-high-over-repeating-jangly-chords CC homage "Find Another Way."

Which raises the obvious issue with American Catapult -- they're a talented bunch, but it all feels just a little too safe, as if they're not ready yet to explore anything outside the musical boundaries sketched by their most admired forebears. That, in turn, blunts the impact of the album. Trees Of Mystery displays quality workmanship all the way through, but didn't leave me with more than a single track -- the aforementioned opener "This Time" -- that I immediately wanted to go back and listen to again. Townsend himself remarks in "Goodbye" on his penchant for minor chords, and it's both a self-conscious and a telling reference.

Still, this is a very solid effort from this young indie band, and one that leaves me curious to see if their music grows and evolves in the future. They've clearly got the skills to take it to the next level; they just need to find a path all their own to get there.

Rating: B-

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