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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Problems - Powder Blue Bone

The Problems - Powder Blue Bone
2010, The Problems

New York City's The Problems have done a lot of work below the radar since their critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2001. While accolades piled up, The Problems moved into scoring films and writing for other artists. In 2007 the band decided to pursue the writing and release of a rock record, but it wasn't meant to be. The effort wasn't in vain, however. After meeting Eddy Goldberg (banjo, harmonica, keys, accordion, vox) and Kate Kilbane (bass), founding members Frank Caiafa and Barbara Corless reworked the album and re-imagined their sound. The resulting album, Powder Blue Bone, sets fans expectations on their ears, and is bound to raise the expectations bar the next time around.

Powder Blue Bone opens with "June", a stripped-down singer/songwriter tune with elements of blues and roots guitar work in the seams. It's a nice, low-key arrangement that adds in some interesting synth work to flesh out the sound. "Roses" is catchy and smarmy without trying to be, like Ron Hawkins jamming with Moxy Fruvous in a song about falling love with someone who appreciates the simple things. It's the first of several love songs on Powder Blue Bone, which turns out to be the antithesis of a breakup album. "Last Dance Mine" is a simple request made without inhibition or fear, out of hope and little else. "The Other One" is a love song written from the third party trying to cut in. It's upbeat and charmingly well-written, like the modern version of an old MGM-movie love song of similar ilk.

"Together" finds the narrator viewing a relationship with the future in mind. This upbeat and happy tune isn't quite a marriage proposal in song, but hints at all a proposal might bring. "When We Met" looks back on the roots of love in a sweet duet that's laid back and very much at peace. "Ran" starts out with Mark Knopfler-style guitar work and songwriting but fades a bit into a solid country/rock/roots arrangement. The approach again is low-key, and it works well with this song. The Problems stay on the same trajectory throughout the final four songs, a slow fade that seems them slowly decline into a bland landscape but never entirely losing the rootsy energy that drives Powder Blue Bone.

The Problems trip themselves up a few times on Powder Blue Bone but never lose balance. The songwriting is generally quite solid, although it's clear that the band's energy level fluctuates a bit throughout the album. Powder Blue Bone is a solid entry that tells you enough about the band to make you interested in what they'll do next.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Problems at or Blue Bone is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.

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