Pat Gubler returns from a four-year hiatus with one of his strongest outings, one that finds him moving further astray from his folky, acoustic beginnings into heavier, Crazy Horse-like territory. ‘January’ wanders aimlessly around some tasty (electric) guitar picking, while ‘Letter’ continues the stoned, lost-in-the-desert vibe reminiscent of Black Sun Ensemble. But at its heart, Starry Mind is a bloodshot-eyed, thousand yard stare into the sun setting over vast Western wastelands. Lyrics are at a minimum, allowing the band to concentrate on lengthy instrumental jams that have a distinct West Coast ’60s aroma. Fans of Country Joe, Quicksilver, even the Dead will be right at home within these comfy grooves.
‘Days Hang Heavy’ is the closest thing to their vintage recordings, a mellow little acoustic number fondly recalling their Fairport-cum-Pentangle folky roots, and ‘Talk Me Down’ is pure country-rock with strains of Pure Prairie League, New Riders, and Sweetheart-era Byrds along for the ride. ‘Crooked Way’ takes too long to get moving (think of Crosby’s ‘What Are Their Names’) but the eventual wah-wah fest excites while it mesmerizes, and dreamy closer ‘This Song’ drowns your sorrows in a pint of rot gut and port. It’s always a treat to hear established acts challenging themselves to move in new directions when the bag they’re in has been so successful, and I think both fans a newbies alike will enjoy what Pat and company have to offer this time around.