Trey Anastasio, "Traveler" (ATO Records)
Phish frontman Trey Anastasio mixes the old and new with a couple of covers, strings, horns, synthesizers -- and even a theremin -- on his latest solo release, "Traveler."
Unfortunately, in walking that tightrope between being a hot mess and a successful musical gumbo, the album cannot seem to find its footing. Think of it as that Phish show that takes a lot of chances, sometimes soaring to new heights, but also laying a few eggs along the way.
The horn-heavy first single, "Scabbard," feels half-baked, while "Pigtail" finds a nifty groove, but falls short with lyrics that almost feel like place holders for better ideas that never come. Anastasio has never been known for lyrical greatness and there's not much on "Traveler" that's going to disabuse anyone of that belief.
That said, Anastasio does take chances and includes an impressively diverse group of artists -- including members of The National and Mates of State -- and instruments that are really the driving force of the album. "Land of Nod," which appropriately enough invokes a dreamy quality, like the rest of "Traveler," feels like a near miss.
Check this out: Perhaps the weirdest moment of the disc comes on a cover of "Clint Eastwood" by the virtual British band Gorillaz. Anastasio funks it up with a heavy dose of horns, while staying true to the song's already eclectic mixture of rap, rock and electronica.