CD REVIEW: Sandbox - Me & Him and Horse
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Album: Me & Him And Horse
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Folk, Celtic
Sounds Like: Stan Ridgeway, R.EM. Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Weakness: A Few Winded Songs
Los Angeles based 7 piece band Sandbox featuring Shane Sweet just released their debut CD entitled Me & Him & Horse in 2012. Band members include: Kaitlin Wolfberg and Morgan Paros (Violins), Dayna Richards (horns), Laureen Brown (Tap), Cooper Cowgill and Adam Hull (Marching Drums), Shane Sweet plays all other instrumentation and is the primary vocalist.
The CD kicks things off with “Tried and Tried” a slow moving acoustical ballad that serves up a peaceful methodical intro melody by Sweet accompanied by inviting fretwork, dynamic rhythm and impressive harmonies. Track 2 “Doesn’t Really Matter” shifts gears a bit with its methodical intro dishing out melancholy Piano, driving rhythms against a grand slam chorus. Track 3 “Puzzles in the Pavement” offers up soothing melody against heartfelt vocals from Sweet and well placed Celtic fretwork that flows and ebbs its way though to emotional fruition. The CD makes a great first impression, providing 3 solid musical experiences in a row. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice most of the songs are very conservative in nature, with lush layers of musical instrumentation layered everywhere. I would classify this music as Alternative Celtic Folk Rock that goes down smooth and fills the sonic space with what I would describe as peaceful tranquility. The musicianship provides a lot of musical variety behind Sweet. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice brief splashes of Horns, Piano, Violins, Marching Drums, Impressive vocal Harmonies and thick as a brick rhythm section. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments, showcasing impressive lyrical content, soothing vocal melodies all built upon a unique signature sound. Now turning our attention over to Sweet, as for his vocal abilities it works extremely well across the board as he crosses many musical boundaries effectively and successfully. This is not easy to do. Weather it's R&B, Folk, Celtic, Rock, Sweet seems comfortable within each one. His vocal style reminds me a lot of Kevin Rowland (Dexy’s Midnight Runners), Bob Dylan and even Stan Ridgeway. The songwriting offers a brilliant perspective and the lyrical content is very thought provoking and very compelling. From dynamic Memories” to rocking “Leaving Now” and “Pen & Guitar” to psychedelic “Holly Would” to melodic “Streetlights” to thought provoking French Roast” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Everybody” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. I don’t get the CD cover art concept or CD title as both miss the mark for me. The 1 panel insert offers little in the way of liner notes about the overall production. Though adequate the mix sounds a bit erratic and lacks continuity track to track. Many of the aforementioned issues are not typical of Gold Standard CD releases. Finally I wish Sweet would spike the punch a bit more with his overall vocal emotions and even be a bit more aggressive vocally on some of the songs.
After spending some quality time with Sandbox featuring Shane Sweet - Me & Him and Horse it’s hard to find any real weaknesses. Instead as the CD progressed I became more and more impressed with it. The musicianship is first rate, the songs are short and sweet musical experiences. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. What I like most about Sandbox besides the unique signature sound is there is no attempt to sugar coat the truth anywhere on the CD. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to artists that can show us something genuine beneath their veil of vanity - Sandbox featuring Shane Sweet is one of these artists.