Reviews.

The Sixth Great Lake | Sunday Bridge
All Music Guide | AMG Album Pick - 4 out of 5 stars

The Sixth Great Lake returns with the subdued Sunday Bridge, a vinyl-only release on Memphis-based Tup Keewah Recordings. The band continues to conjure up country, folk and southern spirits with their relaxed, acoustic approach. The group shares songwriting duties equally, with Zach Ward, Chris Ziter and Michael Barrett all contributing four songs each. Ward is first with the breezey "Old Smoke," followed by Ziter's sly "The Saint." Barrett is up next with organ and sentimentality on "Everybody Loves," at which point the first side is only halfway finished. Each singer has plenty more ammunition in the tank as the album plays out. Ziter's "Seven Stripes" is jaw-dropping for its simplicity. Barrett's "Twenty-three Songs" is the epic of the album, if there was one. It's a standout for its storytelling approach, following a man around on his day-to-day activities, only adding more to the group's everyman quality. Ward's "House Song" is a carefree track adding more emphasis to the album's sleepy town appeal. The album ends much as it begins: the three men playing and singing casually with the occasional guest musician, making each listener feel like a fly on the wall. The album's intimacy makes it an excellent follow-up to 2001's Up the Country.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country
www.babysue.com

 

Relaxing, refreshing, and genuine. The Sixth Great Lake is a band consisting of Jeff Baron, Chris Ziter, Sasha Bell (all three are members of The Essex Green) along with Zachary Ward and Mike Barrett. These five individuals contributed equally to the creation and recording of this disc...which may explain the unique diversity presented here. The music is basic soft pop based around (mostly) acoustic and electric guitars. The ideas and melodies are subtle and understated...and the band leaves great open spaces in their music that make the compositions extremely effective and affecting. In our neverending search for sincerity in the world (and in the world of music in particular), it is rare indeed to find musicians playing for the right reasons. These folks obviously have their hearts in the right place, as these tracks are about as direct and real as you can get in today's world. Nice homespun tracks like "Duck Pond," "Canno Beach," and "You Make the Call" flow by like a cool bubbling brook. We have to love any band that would end their liner notes by urging their listeners to "save our open spaces." Now there's a philosophy to live by (and we only wish that everyone would). Sort of like a modern-day American adaptation of Fairport Convention. This is one of those CDs that will NEVER leave our permanent collection. A real GEM. (Rating: 5+)

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

All Music Guide - www.allmusicguide.com AMG

EXPERT REVIEW: If you're going to change styles, you might as well go all the way and change your name too. The Sixth Great Lake is actually the Essex Green whose Everything Is Green showed the psychedelic side of the group while on Up the Country the Sixth Great Lake turns to folkier roots replacing Surrealistic Pillow with influences like the Band's self-titled album and Neil Young's Comes a Time. The mellow tone for the album is set with the opening track, "Duck Pond," which features exceptional harmonies and a slow catchy melody. "Sasha Bell" assumes lead vocal duties on "Across the Northern Border" and "Last in Line" and delivers beautiful old-school folk-style singing on both, much like on Everything Is Green. The tempo picks up just a touch on "Cannon Beach," but slows back down on "Descending Star." The group openly acknowledges its influences throughout the album, especially on "Last in Line" and "Blue" giving, respectively, a musical and lyrical nod to Johnny Cash. The cover of the Band's "Rockin' Chair" is another highlight of the record.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country ***1/2

InPgh Weekly >> 7.25.01 >> A&E >> Music : Discs  
 

The Sixth Great Lake consists of most of the same people who formed Elephant Six's psychedelic pop homage band the Essex Green, who were also known for playing with Merge Records' rootsy dream-poppers the Ladybug Transistor. In short, they know their way around the scene -- possibly too much so. It's obvious that Sasha Bell, Chris Zither and Jeff Barron (of E.G.), along with Zachary Ward and Michael Barrett, have seen all they needed to see touring big cities, playing to urban underground crowds. So now they want to go home. Up The Country, their first full-length release, offers a glimpse of solitude and still life, and a longing plea for this kind of atmosphere. It's one they probably haven't seen much in the past few years, but collaborating with several relatively successful indie bands can do that. The Sixth Great Lake aren't jaded - just homesick. Pastoral themes contrast with urban scenes in songs like "300 Miles": "You can have your city/You can take it from me/'cause I could never live this way again." This album shows their softer sides, with less psychedelia and more country, reminiscent of Neil Young and even a little Willie Nelson. Their guy/girl vocal harmonies are captivating and inspiring: A cover of the Band's "Rocking Chair" fits in perfectly with the folk theme, and shows the Sixth Great Lake are experts at creating both a mood and a dazzling concept.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

www.theonion.com
 

The Essex Green shares both a philosophy and a couple of members with Ladybug, but Up The Country, recorded under the name The Sixth Great Lake, tilts toward a different set of predecessors, as signaled by a cover of The Band's "Rockin' Chair." Loose and rootsy, The Sixth Great Lake finds its influences at the end of the '60s, when Dylan, The Band, The Grateful Dead, and others helped put their own spin on traditional American music. If the group doesn't quite sustain the experiment over the course of Up The Country's 15 tracks, it scares up enough highlights to justify the diversion--particularly the album-opening "Duck Pond," with its unselfconscious use of outdated hipster lingo. That nice touch pops up throughout the album, allowing the band to display affection, and a bit of yearning, for a time when the statement "So we shared a cosmic talk" wouldn't have provoked instant laughter. Like The Ladybug Transistor, The Sixth Great Lake employs the best kind of recycling, finding new uses for old material whose value couldn't have been fully realized the first time around. - Keith Phipps

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

jim steed 2001 may 11
fakejazz.com | balacynwyd, pa - newhaven, ct - slc, ut

On the inside cover of The Sixth Great Lake's new album, Up the Country, underneath all the miscellaneous notes, the phrase "Save our open spaces" is printed. This plea is the theme of the album, a loving look back to the 60s where communal idealism led to the yearning for the simplicity of country life. This 60s rehash also parallels the bands' lives, starting off in Vermont before moving to Brooklyn (where the band's parent project The Ladybug Transistor makes noise), as this yearning for country life also feels very much like a yearning to return home and a desire to stay youthful. The band's idyllic country home in Vermont also provides the name of the band as Lake Champlain was officially named The Sixth Great Lake a few years back (despite it being incredibly small compared to the other, greater lakes). Lake Champlain is, in effect, the band's Walden Pond. The band is composed of members of The Essex Green along with an extra collaborator, Zachary Ward. While both bands very faithfully recreate 60s and 70s pop, the difference between the two is small but substantial; simply put: The Essex Green is a psychedelic band, and The Sixth Great Lake is a folk band. Both are pop bands with the same vocalists and the same songwriters (similarly distributing writing responsibilities evenly), but as the band states, on Up The Country, they are trying to make an album in the spirit of The Band's Music from Big Pink (The Band's "Rockin' Chair" is also covered on the album), which is quite different from the music of The Essex Green. This full-band style of mellow folk music is very appropriate considering the musical and vocal abilities of the band and the message they are trying to spread. The band members' strong voices are given space to fill and take their primary role, simple and pure melodies from guitar, keyboard, and the occasional flute are sufficient to keep the songs interesting and pleasing, and the earthy qualities of the sound add to the impact of the words. In several songs, the band sings of how liberating trips home to Vermont can be. In the title track, the singer makes a pitch to a lover to take a trip "Up the Country" with him. He wouldn't "trade that calm life for anyone but" her, but he hopes that, after experiencing that "calm life" on the trip, she will be convinced to leave the city with him. More pro-country propaganda is spread on "300 Miles," as the singer sings of a trip to see the fall colors in Vermont, pledging he can no longer live a city life, contrasting the beautiful death of the leaves in the country to the less noble rot of the leaves in the city. The cover of The Band's "Rockin' Chair" also adds to this theme of the liberating trip home. In other songs, the band puts to words the beauty of their country surroundings. In "Lovely Today," the singer remarks on how beautiful the start of winter can be, as even though "green turns to brown," the leaves are beautiful, the clouds are like "meringues" in the sky, and the sun sets leading to a clear, starry night. In "Duck Pond," the singer sings of the effects of winter on the animals, the trees, and a small pond. Much like The Essex Green and The Ladybug Transistor, The Sixth Great Lake is not a terribly original band. However, they are not a terribly original band by design. Like those other bands, they are trying to recreate a great style of music as faithfully as possible, as the sounds they love and the feelings they want to express so closely parallel this previous movement. The message and sound may not be new, but they are exquisitely done, and in this case, bring back a style not covered by many current bands.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

Ryan Kearney - Pitchforkmedia.com Rating: 8.0

I can't possibly count how many times I've pissed in Lake Champlain. Not that I can count how times I've canoed or sailed on its surface, both praying for and fearing a sighting of its mythic, Loch Ness-ish beast, Old Champ. But every time I think of the eight consecutive summers I spent at a camp on its shoreline, I think of myself swimming naked in its frigid waters at 6:30 in the morning with dozens of other naked little boys, most of us leaving behind conspicuous pockets of warm piss. This memory may sound crude to some of you, but to me it's among the purest, most innocent moments of a childhood long since passed. The feeling is perhaps better described in the title track of the Sixth Great Lake's Up in the Country: "We haven't got a care in the world except for each other and the ground we walk upon"-- or, in this case, the lake we swam upon. While this connection might seem dubious at best, I should also mention that Lake Champlain is unofficially-- and officially, according to Senate Bill 927-- the sixth Great Lake. Fittingly enough, this five-member band, which includes Jeff Baron, Chris Ziter and Sasha Bell of the Essex Green, recorded the basic tracks of the album in a house overlooking Lake Champlain. While the Sixth Great Lake gain plenty of inspiration from Lake Champlain, they're also clearly indebted to the country leanings of The Band. For evidence, one need look no further than the cover itself, which resembles The Band's eponymous second album. But if you're not convinced, then I should also mention the Sixth Great Lake's excellent cover of The Band's "Rockin' Chair"-- yes, from that aforementioned album-- which approximates The Band's unique male harmonizing without forfeiting a character all its own. But, as the Sixth Great Lake prove with fourteen other tracks, they don't need to cover The Band to make great music. The sublime opener, "Duck Pond," features beautifully understated keyboards and perfectly balanced male/female vocals during the chorus. "Across the Northern Border" follows, supplanting lead male vocals with lead female vocals. With its bongos and nimble acoustic guitar work, the track pulls you forward from the laid-back position demanded by "Duck Pond." The soft strumming and harmonica of the title track then knocks you out of your Adirondack chair and all the way back to 1968-- albeit more the 1968 of Music from Big Pink than that of The Graduate. Throughout Up the Country, there are hints of other musicians. The opening of "Last in Line" recalls Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." "The Ballad of a Sometimes Traveller" translates Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" into the third person. And the flute-inflected "Cannon Beach" suggests that the Sixth Great Lake and Belle and Sebastian share a taste for Donovan. But this album is first and foremost an homage to The Band-- the kind that pays its respects by not only emulating the sound, but by bringing it into a whole new light. Like any good camp memory, there's little here to find fault with. Sure, things sometimes become a little too airy, or reflective, or reclined, or soft-edged. But that's what you'd expect from an album as temporally displaced as this one. While too many bands, including the Essex Green, are rehashing psychedelic 60's pop, the Sixth Great Lake have resurrected of an oft-forgotten sound of the decade. Yes, there were the dirty mud pits of Woodstock, New York. But not too far from there was Lake Champlain, with its crisp, unbroken surface, just waiting for someone to piss in it.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

Guppyboy + Essex Green = Sixth Great Lake, April 15, 2001
Reviewer: diskojames from Hatboro, PA
Amazon.com reviews

 

The 6GL album is by far this groups best album yet. This is their 3rd album, and their 3rd release under a different band name! The 60's pop influence is pretty much gone on this release - think late 60's folk / country music. Its very very laid back, but it has very strong melodies and memorable tunes. Excellent album. See them live - they put on an amazing show!

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

When they say "Country," they mean it,

April 9, 2001 | Brian from Tampa, FL

The key to enjoying this album is freeing yourself of the notion that the Sixth Great Lake and The Essex Green are the same band. The latter, which released a CD and EP in 1999 and 2000, combined slowed-down psychedelic music with straightfoward pop for a 1960s-era sound. The Sixth Great Lake features mostly Essex Green members, but the music is downbeat, darkly acoustic and as close to country, in some spots, as early Wilco. Some similarities between the bands remain, including Sasha Bell's flute playing, occasional group harmonies and the intros to "You Make the Call" and "Shade of Love," which sound a lot like the intros to "Bald" and "Chester" from The Essex Green's self-titled EP. Highlights of "Up the Country" are "Duck Pond," the title track, "27 Forever" and "Rockin' Chair," but it's all easy to listen to without lapsing into easy listening. This isn't speeding-down-the-highway, singing-along-with-your-best-friends music. Listen to it alone, after dark, when you need to downshift and relax, and you'll be quite pleased with the results.

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

www.milesofmusic.com

This is a sleepy front porch affair featuring members of Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor. The Sixth Great Lake threads some subtle electric guitar and electric piano through their mellow, primarily acoustic-based sound, creating a bucolic musical patchwork that seems sewn together with the essence of '60s California country rock. Toss in a communal "Big Pink" type spirit and a jug of wine and there you go. With vocal leads rotating around several guys and the band's sole female, Up The Country maintains a varied flavor with hints of peddle steel, flute and banjo. There is even some use of a melodica that won't remind you of the Hooters (unless you recall reading this).

The Sixth Great Lake | Up the Country

Time Out New York Review 4/12-19/01
Jay Ruttenberg

 

Place yourself in the shoes of the musicians in Essex Green. In the past couple of years, you've put out an album and an EP, both of which were well received by fans of Village Green-era Kinks (whose work yours evokes) and the Elephant 6 Recording Collective (with whom you are associated). You have played a decent number of shows near your Brooklyn home and have toured the country, drawing nice little crowds. You record your second album, Up the Country, in a manner that's perhaps a bit looser than the other stuff, maybe this new one owes more to the Byrds than the Kinks, but disparities are trivial. So, unless you were hoping to sell 257 albums instead of the usual 462, why would you temporarily change your band's name to the Sixth Great Lake? For these musicians, it comes as part of an overall mentality that mimes the moves of big-time heroes­ even when this means transforming into a "secret" band, when in essence they already are a secret band. While such a project is bound to grate on those curmudgeons with low-wank tolerances, Up the Country should head straight to the hearts of admirers of sheer flakiness, not to mention those charmed by the '60s standbys whose auras are reverentially evoked by this five-piece. Recorded in rural New England with a carefull insouciance suggestive of the Band, this is an album in search of a campfire. Arrangements are sparse, with acoustic guitars and light drums peppered with the occasional harmonica and keyboard. In a further ode to the Band, most of the players seem to dip their hands into the arrangements and singing; if listeners still don't make the connection­ even after hearing the group's handsome, achy harmonies on "27 Forever"­the album's one straight cover song comes from Robbie Robertson's pen. There are innumberable other less conspicuously summoned, with tacit shout-outs extended to everybody from the Grateful Dead to Belle and Sebastian. While some may question the Lake's progressive spirit, they must remember that this is but a secret spin-off band­a breed with no greater duty than devotion to its record collection.