Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns
Self-Release – 2021
10 tracks; 42.03 minutes
This release is a project by Jim Casson, a veteran drummer who has played with a huge number of people (his website lists 445!) but who is probably best known as the drummer for Canadian institution Downchild. The project started with the idea of creating music from an initial drum improvisation to which others could add their parts – arguably an ideal way to create music during the recent pandemic lockdowns. Jim played all the drum parts and also provided samples, field recordings and synth bass; the other core musicians involved are Jay Burr on tuba and trombone, Wayne Deadder on guitar and Mike Branton on slide guitar. Russ Boswell plays bass on two cuts, harp players Steve Marriner and Al Lerman play on one track each and Bernie LaBarge and Brent Barkman add guitar and organ respectively to one track.
This is an all-instrumental album and, as creator of the core rhythms, Jim is credited as composer on all ten tunes, three on his own, with additional credits for Burr, Deadder, Barkman, Boswell, Branton, LaBarge and Lerman.
The title of the album comes from Jim’s childhood in the Niagara region: Davis Hall was the name of the community center where he attended nursery school and the Green Lantern was a soda shop! All the song titles involve names of places in the Niagara region, plus snippets of radio broadcasts, apparently taken from a 1963 broadcast on the local radio station, are sown through the album, so this is an exercise in nostalgia, at least for Jim.
The PR sheet that accompanied this album claims that this is what might happen “if Dark Orchard (Jim’s experimental music project) got together with the blues in New Orleans and watched Twin Peaks with Daniel Lanois”. Unfortunately, it makes for a pretty dull listening experience. Certainly there is a generally funky feel to almost every track but on several nothing much happens beyond the main rhythm and the radio extracts seem to serve little purpose.
Things get more interesting, to these ears, on “The Right Road To Boyle” which has a real Little Feat feel as the slide and guitar play off each other over busy percussion and a melodic bottom end played by the tuba. The double-tracking of Jay’s trombone over his tuba, plus the use of dobro, gives a greater depth of sound to “Formerly Diffin’s Corner” and Steve Marriner’s lonesome harp fits well with “Finding Tintern” which plods along at a funereal pace. “The Dream Of Chantler” makes a strange, minimalist end to the album with the sound of crickets in the background throughout.
It is hard to see what the audience might be for this disc which is certainly not one to which this reviewer will return.