If you call your album ‘Maudlin Days’ a dictionary would tell us to expect an overly sentimental piece which, if filmed, would result in the cast going through all manner of emotional hell while the dog….well you know what happens to the dog. Luckily ‘Maudlin Days’ doesn’t get too morose and the end result is an album that is emotional and reflective without getting too sentimental as singer-songwriter Michael Simone delves into the reality of relationships in a way that will strike a chord with many listeners.
Ocean Carolina are based in Brooklyn, NY and are fronted by the aforementioned singer, songwriter, guitarist Michael Simone whose musical journey has evolved over the years in an eclectic manner with Prince, Joe Satriani, Metallica, Eddie Van Halen and The Cure sited as early influences before the late Jeff Buckley seems to have ignited the singer songwriter gene that was obviously lying dormant somewhere below the surface. The Raleigh / Chapel Hill, North Carolina scene has produced some fine bands over the years and Simone a native of the area, was familiar with many of the local acts such as Dillon Fence and The Connells. His association with the musicians of the area would lead to a stint playing in popular major label local act The Veldt. In more recent times Simone has fronted alt-rockers Seems So Bright and his technical skills would lead to a successful career as an in-demand dance producer under the Lovesky moniker.
The first thing that springs to mind when you hit play on ‘Maudlin Days’ is simple….it sounds absolutely glorious. In fact it sounds so good that you’ll be amazed to find that the record was completed in a brief eleven days. Producer Jon Graboff, a member of Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, was enlistened to helm the record so that a more natural / old school approach could be utilized. Looking back on the first Ocean Carolina album ‘All The Way Home’ Simone felt he had got too obsessed with the computer technology at his disposal which enabled him to endlessly tinker with the record. This time out he was searching for an approach that would give the album a sound and feel similar to their live shows. Graboff brings the added benefit of his abilities with a range of guitars including pedal steel.
Opener ‘All I Can Do’ sets the scene with a sound that effortlessly encompasses the 70’s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene, Country Rock and the lighter side of the Alternative Rock sound that conquered American radio in the 90’s. The track sets the bar high with a perfect mix of acoustic and electric 12 string guitars that is maintained throughout. The terrific ‘Once You’ve Done Me Wrong’ is even better as it looks at a relationship and wonders if there might be a way back “could there ever be an us again” Simone wonders as I’m sure we have all looked back and wondered in the past.
Picking tracks to highlight is difficult as to be honest it’s all good but ‘Cry Baby Cry’ injects a dash of southern soul into proceedings thanks to a quite lovely intro with the smooth bass playing of Alex Cox anchoring the song. ’Something’ displays a harder edge which suits the desperate lyrical tone “I’ve got to mean something to someone out there” with drummer Tony Leone (Chris Robinson Brotherhood) driving things from behind the kit. ‘Don’t Carry On’ features some of the best playing and singing on the whole record. Simone carries (cough) the song with his sweet, warm vocal. Of the twelve tracks on offer here eleven are Simone originals with the only outside composition the desolate ‘Yer Feet’ written by Neil Halstead (Slowdive, Mojave 3) which fits in well even if it does make some of the Simone songs seem cheery in comparison.
Michael Simone and Ocean Carolina have released a fine record that manages to mix echoes of summer musically with a melancholy lyrical outlook. It’s like lying in the sun while thinking about your past relationships and wondering what might have been. ‘Maudlin Days’ is available via all the usual digital platforms and on vinyl (which has got to be the way to go) from their label.