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When you think of a young guys in a band playing music you might assume that they're a rock or pop band, but I don't think anyone would immediately leaps to Celtic music... at least at first glance. Now if you say that it was a band that hailed from Nashville, does that sound like it lends itself to Celtic flavors? That is the musical paradox that is Slide Show Baby though. They're a young band from Nashville TN, playing their own mix of pop, rock, folk and Celtic styles.
Where musicians are from certainly doesn't dictate the sounds they are expected to make, but the odd mismatch of Nashville as a home town and Celtic folk is what initially intrigued me about this band. I'll admit also that maybe at first glance I thought that they might claim that their use of a fiddle and bagpipes would classify part of their sound as "Celtic" without actually reaching anything close of the same feel as real Celtic music. After listening to their songs though, I have to say that Slide Show Baby can definitely capture some true Celtic flavor in their sound, show some definite talent and although didn't blow me away, are worth keeping an eye on...
And that I don't really hear any of the influences of Nashville in their music at all... or at least not overt influences.
Slide Show Baby in my mind is best described as lighthearted, fun, youthful pop rock, occasionally folksy, but often with some Celtic elements both in instrumentation, style and rhythmic ideas, and the occasional progressive melodic moment throughout. Their songs have an odd range of instrumentation including bagpipes and fiddle, adding some interesting variety and surprising moments. Their vocal styles and lyrics I think betray their youth a little bit, but not in an overly immature way or even necessarily a bad way. These songs just seem to embody their youth. They're high energy, uplifting and fun. I'm a little undecided when it comes to their pop elements but when they go for a more traditional Celtic flair it really works for them sounding authentic, but new at the same time. Because Celtic music has such a particular feel and style, getting this feel to come through is a testament to their interest and passion for that genre.
The songs that I first heard from this band ranged quite a bit, demonstrating that Slide Show Baby has some depth to their songwriting. "Long Long Road" sounds like a pretty straight forward pop rock track, except for the slightly screeching melody that over arcs the upbeat feel... it's a bagpipes lick I believe, but not a bad one. I find bagpipes as such an interesting instrument because they have such an enormous potential to be annoying and fall flat, far more than other instruments, but in the right hands can also be incredibly soulful. In this case I think it works pretty well. It isn't a lick that overtly stands out and says "hey listen to the bagpipes", which is also a plus, and does give the song a good melodic flair even if only barely hinting at a Celtic style. "Newsflash" was a surprise to me because it's opening guitar riff has a bit of a progressive twist along side a more standard "fun punk rock energy", but also has fiddle melody lines including a great fiddle lead where there would normally be a guitar solo (kudos to the fiddle player).
The last two songs on their Myspace page were the most interesting in my mind. The first of these two, "Shine", starts with acoustic guitar and a fiddle line that sounds far more in the realm of true Celtic music than the first two songs. The melody in particular seems to capture that particular Celtic feel. The song does get heavier in the chorus, but is still subtle. The last song, "The Booze Hound" I thought was the most interesting of these 4 by far. It's very much like a Celtic folk stomp with energetic drums and the fiddle melody over top. Along with that it has a slightly funky center section which is perhaps a little out of character with the rest of the song, but seems to work well. I think I like this song because it really sounds in the vein of Celtic music, but also is energetic and catchy, even as an instrumental.
I also listened through a few others songs from this band's debut release on their website. I won't go through them song by song but I will say that there is were things I liked and thinks I didn't. There were also some harder rock moments and general style moments that surprised me.
Overall, I'm a little torn by Slide Show Baby. I really like their Celtic elements. I'm a fan of Celtic music in general and there are moments when this band sounds spot on. At the same time though, vocally (and maybe lyrically a little) I find them more in the range of the "pop punk" movement (not the best term to use, I know... I only use the term "punk" for lack of a better one). The bands that come to mind are All American Rejects, the Plain White T's, maybe a little Jimmy eat World. I'm not a really big fan of any of those bands, for various reasons, so I'm approximating slightly but it'll give you the idea, although a bit of a vague one, what I mean. That part of their sound I'm not really big on, in fact it's a little bit of a turn off for me to be honest, but the songs are definitely catchy and fun.
Like I said, I really like their "more Celtic moments" and that is what really inspired me to write this piece about the band. You don't hear too much about Celtic rock bands. I think Slide Show Baby is definitely making some good music already, but if they can cultivate that earthiness, they'll be a really great Celtic rock band... from Nashville. I also think they have some compositional, arrangement and songwriting talent, but like I also said, I wasn't floored. I'll keep an eye on them though. Check Slide Show Baby out yourself and see what you think.
Here's the band's Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/slideshowbaby
And here's their website: http://www.slideshowbaby.com/