Search the Internet for “The Soul of Spain,” withor without ‘music’, ‘band’ or album and chances are you will end up on travel sites. It takes some effort to find spaintheband.com, which just goes to show how they’ve failed to make a connection with a mass audience, just on names and titles alone.
Established way back in 1995, Los Angelenos Spain released The Blue Moods of Spain, worthy enough of a cover of Spiritual by Johnny Cash; one of those lauded bands I never heard of. Singer Josh Haden has revived the band for a fourth album, a slice of lovelorn Californian wallowing.
There are occasional moments of energy and some catchy song-writing – Because Your Love and Only One are a couple of decent pop songs. Walked on the Water and Sevenfold are dull Christian pop, Miracle Man gets up a rocky vibe for a time, before we plummet back to the narcoleptic dirge that is Falling. I was recommended this album as a companion to The Civil Wars Barton Hollow but there’s little common ground. I’d have settled for the Flaming Lips, but Spain has none of the wit or the get-up-and-go. The refrain for Hang Your Head Down Low is “Lift your spirit high.” My spirit sank deeper into a long sleep.
The Soul of Spain rarely gets out of second gear. From opener Only One to Hang Your Head Down Low, Josh Haden mumbles his way through a succession of broody introspective songs. Along the way there are pleasant arrangements with some decent guitar licks, reminiscent of the Eagles in their quieter moments, but that’s not much of a compliment and overall I think I’d rather have the Eagles. Haden’s vocals drone a little too much over the instruments, earnest and unassuming, but there’s no real range.
Call it laid back, call it mellow, call it touching, even; one critic called them “gloriously downbeat,” if downbeat can be glorious. By the end I thought it was just a bit dreary. SC