Spanish Gold - South of Nowhere

Released May 27, 2014

By Charlie Dims

One thing Spanish Gold understands well is the concept of surprise. Based on their name, you might think that they make songs with a Western feel. Or, looking at the cover image for their debut album, with the three members looking straight at the camera while covered in a dark yellow and black design, it might seem that they are a rock band with tough, testosterone-fueled songs about the darkness of everything. Or, seeing how the name of their new album is South of Nowhere, it could seem likely that their work is going to be messy and without a stable voice to carry the album through. It's not that Spanish Gold doesn't deliver on these assumptions. Rather, they transcend them.

Spanish Gold is not really a rock or western band, but they aren't bad a bad imitation of those genres, either. Their sound is more like what you would expect if the 2012 version of Bob Dylan had a smoother voice met with a Bob Marley-inspired reggae group in the middle of a western movie and decided to make an album together while a modern-day rock-and-blues group played quietly through the speakerphones. If that sounds chaotic, it shouldn't. Certainly, there is a lot going on, but all of this adds to a complete sound that sets Spanish Gold apart from other bands.

With both the opening One Track Mind and South of Nowhere, the fusion between the keyboards, the electric guitar, and the vocals creates songs perfect for riding a motorcycle down a midnight-encrusted town. Out on the Street slows down the pace of the album a bit, but adds new layers of well-appreciated deep atmosphere, which carries over to the next song Movin On, which, you guess, is about the need to move on and explore new ground, even if it means leaving others behind.

Just when it seems like you've got the album figured out, Shangri La adds an unexpected mix of reggae soul to the mix. The falsetto vocals, along with the soft influence of Jamaican beats, helps the song soar. "Shangri La, you've got the best of me," Dante Schwebel sweetly sings in this unexpected love song.

But just before things get too human, the final track Stay With Me begins with electronically-altered vocals before moving towards a more western-acoustic touch. It just goes to show that Spanish Gold cannot be held in a single set of preconceived ideas. Their debut may be called South of Nowhere, but it seems all too likely that their sound will carry them very far very quickly.