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Artist: Various Artists
Label: Northern Records (2003)
Length: 20 Tracks (71:15 minutes)

With an artist roster boasting the likes of Michael Knott, Cush, The Lassie Foundation and the late, great Prayer Chain, the average listener is probably inclined to associate the Northern Records imprint with all things alternative.  To that end, the four-year-old label's debut compilation One certainly delivers the goods.  The Cush collective tips the scales in fine form with the languishing, slightly ambient "Heaven Sent."  "Valentine," from Doug Moss and his Honey cohorts, is an equally choice cut of mellow, tune-driven pop.  The Violet Burning's "Moon Radio" is a seamless slice of road-ready pop/rock that weds fuzzed-out guitars and vocals to a driving rhythm section with stellar results.  And Frank Lenz's "The Hot Stuff" wraps its alt-rock tendrils around an engaging, if somewhat unlikely, mixture of jazz-tinged horns, acid guitars, and Bee Gees-inflected vocals that, against all ostensible odds, comes off as an unqualified success.

The above mentioned entries notwithstanding, the anthology also offers up plentiful proof that the powers that be at Northern have hardly relegated themselves to the modern rock and pop arenas.  The gritty roots rock of the album-opening "Seatbelt" forms the ideal foil for Holly  Nelson's soaring, slightly ethereal singing voice.  The Gravity Show's "Rock 'n' Roll Star" is an eminently worthy entry into the dance-friendly synth pop category.  And Wayne Everett's "A Million Leaves" and the Billions's "I Won't Turn Away" walk the path of the delicate, sugar-sweet melancholy of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds project.    For those already immersed in the work of the artists represented,  One merely confirms what they already know--that the Northern namesake is home to some of the most talented indie-minded performers around.  For those yet to take the plunge, the collection extends solid and inviting proof that the proverbial musical waters surrounding the label are indeed just fine.

Bert Gangl, 8/14/2003


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