Quintessentially Quintus

22 Aug


In a way it is rather fitting that Quintus is named, well, Quintus. For all of you up on your Latin, Quintus means fifth. It took five years of recordings and the near death of the band before Quintus was able to piece together their first full-length compilation and follow-up to their 2006 EP The Shape We’re In. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Back in 2006, Levon Helm produced Quintus’ EP The Shape We’re In and called the band one of his favorite new acts. The upbeat, country/folk album recorded in Levon Helm’s Woodstock barn, was never officially released because of a dispute with Downtown Records, the band’s label at the time, which was a shame because the album deserved to garner more ears than it did. Helm lauded the band’s maturity, and that attribute is evident in the tracks, all neatly developed, catchy, and exciting. The fire should have been warmed on Quintus, but it wasn’t.

Fast forward some years later, and I am writing to introduce the aptly titled Start All Over Again, which I hope is the beginning of a long career for the talented band led by producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Reuben Chess. The 11-track album does not have a dud, which is difficult enough to accomplish. Every song has its own flavor, some touching on the Country elements of their first release and others toying with a folk-inspired poppy Indie rock that combines horns and acoustic instrumentation with old-fashioned rock n’ roll beats. They are a throwback making modern music. There is an inherent contradiction in that statement, but I don’t hear it.

“Just the Same”  is a good example of what I just mentioned. The song’s sprightly rhythm combines with Chess record piano (what a coincidence – much in the vein of Lafayette Leake) and even a taste of Travelling Wilburys. Chess even adds in Buddy Holly’s trademark late 50s stutter. The horns are added delicately and fall behind a harmony straight out of the 90s. The song is such a wacky combination of elements, and it works exceptionally well. Credit to Mike Riddleberger – drums, percussion, vocals, David Dawda – bass, acoustic guitar, ukelele, banjo, piano, vocals, and Dan Kreiger – keys for their tremendous work in this excellent song that is a great expression of the band’s talent.

“To The Fillmore East” immediately follows “Just the Same” on the album. Chess begins the song with a moaning harmonica that leads into his powerful croon over a crafty acoustic guitar that follows the vocal to a tee. The song collides at close to the one minute mark and the full ensemble introduces itself. Quintus’ harmony is strong throughout the album, but this song features it specifically well. The song even takes on a pre-Magical Mystery Tour Beatles feel or, better yet, a California Beach Boys feel. The breakdown at 1:40 is wonderfully original. The song is a tremendous joy to listen to, even featuring an untampered electric solo and a cajun-saturated vocal echo, finishing with a fluffy harmonica and whistle.

Levon Helm was right. Quintus is a special band. It’s time for them to get the notoriety they surely deserve. So, go on, tell your friends.

The album can be purchased at the band’s Bandcamp and you can catch them on Facebook or Twitter

4 Responses to “Quintessentially Quintus”

  1. John Phillips August 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    wow!!! Levon knew his stuff

    • Matthew Coleman August 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      I know! That was an immediate draw. Then I heard the good tunes and was hooked


  1. A Leap In The Dark by Quintus - Review | The Daily Album - December 14, 2013

    […] songwriter for Quintus, a project that has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. A great piece over at The Music Court chronicles some of the trials and tribulations faced by Chess and his mates […]

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