The secret behind the Wayback Machine's music--a hybrid of folk, rock, blues, country and what the kids today call "jam-band" music--is that it sounds as if it's being played by a gang of friends gathered in a living room. That's not an easy vibe to replicate in the studio.
But the band, working with engineer Craig Schumacher at the hallowed Wavelab Studios, has created just such an aural illusion while imbuing its new album, Barrio Jam, with a bright, warm and roomy sound.
Barrio Jam includes Wayback-style interpretations of the work of local songwriters John Coinman, Cathy Rivers and George Hawke, as well as numbers written by out-of-towners Rosie Flores, Aztec Two-Step, the Buena Vista Social Club and Kasey Chambers.
Although the band has varied in membership from three to seven musicians, this CD was recorded by a core group of guitarist Tom Woolley, bassist Bev Seckinger, percussionist Jim Lipson and violinist Shanti Foster. All sing and double on other instruments, while another dozen respected local players sit in.
One pleasant surprise is the enthusiastic way the Wayback Machine--widely known for its Grateful Dead-type grooves--embraces good-old-fashioned, honky-tonk music. The album's highlights--such as Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening" and Warren Zevon's "Mohammed's Radio"-- are ideally suited to the comfy Wayback style.