Adam Ezra Group is a Boston acoustic pop act that has made waves in and around Boston for the past half-decade. To date the group has shared the stage with Jackson Browne, Cracker, Little Feat, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Goo Goo Dolls, Guster, John Mayer, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band, Pete Seeger, State Radio and many more. View From the Root is the band’s first national release, but their fourth overall recording. Ezra himself has released three solo efforts.
So how is it?
Lengthy but worth the time. Ezra has a supple vocal delivery that is warm and engaging and more importantly, never disappointing. With the exception of “Half a Hero,” which is an attempt at radio rock, very little about View From the Root is alienating. At its core these are harmless acoustic folk narratives. Album opener “Kate,” is charming and sweet, while “Have We Met,” wears its coffeehouse aura to a T. “Another Sunshine,” has a tangible familiarity as it has spent the last few years playing in the movie screen of our minds. “Home Again Soon,” and the political “Basement Song,” may be the album’s best of the first half. Then things even out a bit. “Flyin’,” “Vision” and “Re-Vision,” are all supple, air-tight and well-executed but none of them have that extra something to vault them towards being something worth coming back to.
The swampy “Scandal,” is a sinewy spoken word blues cut replete with harmonica and one of the better story lines put to paper of any album released this year. Rather unexpectedly, the disc moves to a live format with a near three-minute introduction to the song “She’s Just a Girl,” before diving into a live version of the song. That the song is one of the disc’s most inspired is probably why the introduction was included but its placement still feels kind of weird. That being said, listening to Ezra tell the story he sounds very much like an every man, and comes across as down-to-earth and easy to relate to. That simple tactic, though off-kilter and a bit unexpected gives a glimpse into the singer-songwriter that his songs cannot reveal.
Though “You Paint Me,” is a bit of nothing song, the breezy “Naive Little Me,” is a sensual and inspiring four-minutes. The languorous blues jam “Soul’s For,” moves along lazily but features an inspired harmonica and swirling guitarwork. Though it’s probably not his first calling, there’s little reason to think Ezra couldn’t pull off an entire album of blues sendups and “Soul’s For,” and “Scandal,” prove exactly that. Penultimate cut, “Kill Like This,” is a bristling rock gem buttressed by a howling lead guitar and more of Ezra’s sharp lyrics. With the exception of “Half a Hero,” it’s the only song on View From the Root that has a distinct rock background, but whereas that song stumbled from the very start, “Kill Like This,” kicks and spits from the very start. The disc ends with a live studio version of “Wagon Wheel,” a jangly, hip-shaking pop ditty backed by harmonica that Ezra rips through as if he’s played the song his whole life.
From start to finish, View From the Root is awash in hook-laden choruses, rich musicianship and the kind of polish that indicates Ezra might not be Boston’s secret for long. While it does taper off in places, there’s at least a dozen songs on here that reveal a potency and passion far too hard to imitate. So are Billboard charts in store for Ezra? Probably not. But a future in Nashville does not seem out of the question. If anything View From the Root only reaffirms that very notion.