Jim Connolly’s latest work on the pfMentum label reduces his more free-wheeling Gove County Philharmonic to a string quartet, but retains all the charm and cinematic qualities that made earlier Gove County outings so resonant with all who encountered them.
Connolly’s outfit, presumably named for the sparsely-populated Kansas county, presents an interesting amalgam of styles throughout the disc. Old-time country moments mingle just measures away from a pure lounge vamp, and then dissolve into something out of a cartoon-mouse-on-a-journey sweetness. Along the way, there are numerous more avant-garde moments– sudden changes of tempo, truncated endings, and the odd scraping and pawing of “Crows Would Steal the Stars If They Could Fly That High.”
Overall, the album is a distinctly American mix– probably best appreciated by those with a fondness for a little carnival music in their iPods.
Along with this latest self-titled release, pfMentum was kindly enough to send along a copy of an older Connolly disc, featuring The Gove County Philharmonic. The 2002 release, “Time Stops to Visit” is far more raucous than the current album, most notably due to contributions from Jeff Kaiser on trumpet and Jim Bement’s accordion. Bruce Bigenho also propels the album– recorded in Connolly’s living room, incidentally– with a chipper bar-room style at turns, but also with Sun Ra moments as in “Time Stops to Visit.”
The album closes with the lovely “Hi Lili, Hi Lo,” which should have you singing along and guessing at the words within seconds. Frankly, I wish more of the songs between both albums had such singing; perhaps this is a nice wish for next time Jim makes the trip to Gove.