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Zak Sobel Band Takes Happy Valley to “Barcelona”

You might know them from their weekly performances at the Darkhorse Tavern, but the Zak Sobel Band isn’t just your average nineties cover band. The group — arguably the most talented opener at Movin’ On — released “Barcelona,” its third album of original songs, earlier this spring.

We sat down with their album and listened through it a few times. Here are some notes on the tracks.

1. Cares Float Away
It blows my mind to hear someone my age able to play a harmonica… it’s definitely a strength throughout all the band’s songs. It’s like Jack Johnson with more folk; you’ll find this song perfect for a nice summer cruise with the windows down around back roads with your friends. Sobel’s voice and the background vocals create a classic folk feel that seems very rare nowadays.

2. Voodoo Woman
Yes, more harmonica! This song is more upbeat with a catchy chorus that is perfect to get students dancing and swaying with their friends. Clap your hands and dance around, pass the frisbee and smile. That’s what this music is made for. The combination of the piano and harmonica makes it reminiscent of a ’60s Dylan song, which is the perfect kind of music for a relaxing afternoon.

3. Hard Times
Definitely one of the sappier songs of the album, this would be great for a night underneath the stars. Close your eyes, take in the sun and listen to the dual vocals, “It’s hard to be a man/Without a woman by your side/Someone to hold you tight/And treat you right/All through the night.” It’s summer — make sure you enjoy it with people who matter.

4. Travelin’ Alone
Sobel turns it up a notch by ditching his usual acoustic guitar for an electric one with more of a bluesy feel. The guitar solo about halfway through song had me finger picking the air in anticipation of seeing this live. It reminded me of a Ben Harper song, but has more of a country feel rather than scat. And if nothing else, the guitar rhythm feels like a good reason to dance.

5. Penitentiary Bound
This song has more of a traditional country feel to it, but it still keeps your feet tapping and your head bobbing. This is the kind of music you don’t need to be watching to appreciate — listening is enough. Just the lyrics of “My heart is penitentiary bound,” makes it apparent that these aren’t collegiate clichés, but actually well-crafted lyrics with talented musicians backing Sobel.

6. Where the Green River Flows
This song had a great voice accompanying Sobel, but it left me wishing for some more back-and-forth singing.

7. Your Heart’s Refrain
A romantic song that’s not entirely optimistic, but a brilliant use of both instrument and vocal ability nonetheless.  I keep having to remind myself that this is the same band I usually hear playing Third Eye Blind at 1:30 a.m., but listening to Sobel’s lyrical story unfold makes it feel like you’re listening to a completely different band.

8. Where the Green River Flows (acoustic)
Acoustic. Enough said.

“Barcelona” is a great album no matter where you are — at the Darkhorse kicking back with some friends or at work getting it done, a few listens to this album and you’ll be back in Happy Valley.

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