Letter from New Virginia
Did you know that one of iTunes musical categories is “unclassifiable”? Such a description is apt for the music of Donny Hue and the Colors. The group uses many unusual instruments, including autoharp, melodica, glockenspiel, and theremin, as well as guitar and organ on an album that can alternately be described as psychedelic, minimalist, and orchestral.
The instrumental “Into the Woods” plays like the opening of a movie, setting the tone for the album. It is pleasant sounding yet laid back until the music stops abruptly and we hear a very very quiet sound resembling wings. Both the emphasis on melody and the bizarre use of ambient sound carry over as the album progresses.
“You’re On Your Own (We Could Help)” is a bit left of center, but whimsical in a Beatles-esque way. The lyrics make little sense: “Mr. Romo, how do you so elegantly bow?” “I Speak of the Hayseed Cousins” sports a country vibe with jangling guitar and laconic vocal while “Callidope” has a bluegrass feel and is marked by prominent harmonica and a fast-paced rhythm. We then have “Fairlady of the Springboard,” a waltz on which we hear piano and violin, and as with many other songs, the music obscures the vocals. It’s not that you can’t hear them, but that they don’t seem to be saying much, and the music is more the focus. The band gives a Southern rock feel to “Woods,” which has drawling vocals, ambling solos, and piano and horns that add to the crescendo finale.
Musically, Donny Hue and the Colors know their stuff, and while the album is interesting to listen to once, it doesn’t get any less strange or chaotic the second time around. Until the group learns to focus their talents more, I won’t be adding them to my playlist.