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CD Review
Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons

Ha Ha Tonka

Record Label: Bloodshot Records
Artist's Facebook
Review by Sal Serio
October 2013

The fourth CD by Missouri quartet Ha Ha Tonka features 14 new songs, augmented by strings and keyboards in a somewhat heavy-handed manner. ‘Lessons’ is more “produced” sounding than their previous efforts, and while it’s impressive that the band is trying new things, the ‘Lessons’ release does not resemble the Ha Ha Tonka live sound, which is somewhat troubling. However, there is a new element present, which is both “adult contemporary”, and a bit retro in an R.E.M. kind of way. So, while it’s possible that this unusual new characteristic may gain the group some new fans, I fear that it will alienate many of their stalwart fans.

On the plus side though, there is an emphatic, quite creative (and at times over-driven) guitar statement being made by Brett Anderson, as is exemplified by the title track. What I found funny was the lush production values mixed with the huge vocal choruses, which often gave the impression of this being a “Spaghetti Western” soundtrack CD.

The most intriguing song on ‘Lessons’ is “Cold Forgiver” which has a sparse arrangement and poppy vocal approach reminiscent of ‘White Album’ era Beatles. Being a strong supporter of Ha Ha Tonka’s earlier works, I’ll allow this new effort to sink in, and hope that it grows on me. Otherwise, it will find it’s way into my collection filed somewhere between ‘Let It Be’ and “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”.

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