Humblin' (Across America) is a reissue of the Orange Humble Band's 2001 follow-up to their debut, Assorted Creams. With a core membership of Darryl Mather, producer Mitch Easter, Anthony Bautovich and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, the Orange Humble Band always promised to be some kind of power-pop summit meeting, and indeed the debut pretty much delivered just that.
Its belated successor, however, effortlessly broadens the band's remit. With Big Star's Jody Stephens sitting in on drums, and with guest appearances from Southern rock luminaries Jim Dickinson and Spooner Oldham, this album is a stunning exploration of American music's highways and byways, mixing gorgeous ballads with Byrdsian guitar jangle, hard-edged power pop, raucous roadhouse workouts and punchy horns. The Orange Humble Band's driving force and principal songwriter is Australian Darryl Mather, but its main voice is provided by Stringfellow. Bolstered by Anthony Bautovich's vocal harmonies, Stringfellow soars away, shifting between fragile choirboy tones and full-on declamatory blasts. And from the start, with the processed harmonies of "Vineyard Blues" recalling Big Star's miraculous debut, this album grips like a tender vise, through the jangly groove of "What's Your Crime?" and the rolling, Exile on Main Street-style momentum of "Any Way You Want It" to the portentous "Can You Imagine," with its massive, yearning "Don't Fade Away" chorus hook. There's even a scheduled country-rock detour along the way, with a mini Southern American Small Music Revue, consisting of a four-song suite that hovers somewhere between Gram Parsons' damaged crooning and The Band's mythic Americana.
Despite its extended cast of players, its apparent surfeit of ideas and the impression of leaving of no stone unturned, Humblin' (Across America) holds itself together right to the finish, to an oddly downbeat but somehow fitting climax with "Come Try This." As Stringfellow sings a bleak sign-off "Try to capture all this/ Except it's an abyss" and the guitar rises to a grandstanding solo finish, you're left with the feeling that this is music that's rare and precious, as it boldly revels in a kind of desperate, fleeting euphoria.