Grant Farm 

Kiss the Ground

When I first heard Tyler Grant was a former national flatpicking guitar champion, I expected his music to be acoustic, traditionalist bluegrass. Instead, his Colorado-based quartet, Grant Farm, is a mostly electric, not-too-grassy romp. Their brand of "Cosmic Americana" evokes the Grateful Dead's rootsy side, coupling searing telecaster with swirling organ, country drum shuffles and big three-part vocal harmonies. Their energetic, danceable mix has made them a staple of the Northwest festival circuit, but their third studio album, Kiss the Ground, falls a little short of capturing the group's onstage energy.

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The record starts strong by emphasizing the cosmic over the Americana on "Get In Line," a funky rocker with a Doors-y vibe. Most of the album straddles the line between rock and country without ever sounding disjointed. Technical proficiency and tight harmonies abound, but many of the songs lack a strong vocal lead, so it's a good thing Grant's impeccable lead guitar playing packs the needed expressive punch. From his wah-laden, Jerry Garcia-esque licks on "One Hundred Ways..." to the flawless chicken pickin' on "Colors," Grant demonstrates an exciting mastery of his instrument that really pushes these songs. With a compelling lead singer they would be an unstoppable force, but as it stands the band's groovy nature burns brightest in a live setting.

Grant Farm play the Top Hat Sat., June 11. Doors at 9:30, show at 10 PM. $5.

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