Kerry Pastine and her husband/guitarist Paul Shellooe have with “City of Love” a single leaning hard on vintage musical values yet sounding thoroughly modern and never imitative. Yes, Pastine works within an established tradition on this release, but it doesn’t stop her, Shellooe, or the other members of the Crime Scene from recasting these time-tested turns in a shape and form all their own. This first single from the album of the same name is a sinewy ride, rife with blues and rock influences, and one of the liveliest recent exports from Denver, Colorado’s burgeoning musical scene. It’s also, though never implicitly stated, a product of family – Pastine and Shellooe have been together over fifteen years, co-writer Mark Richardson has a past with Pastine dating back to her time with The Informants, and this is title song of Pastine’s third studio release with The Crime Scene. Blood may not connect them, but their musical connection is as strong as any biological relationship.
You can hear that in the right relationship the singer and music share with one another and, on an even deeper level, the relationship between each musical instrument in relation to its counterparts. Drummer Andrew “AJ” Knight and Shellooe play quite well together – the lockstep synchronicity they hit throughout the track gives an added physical quality to a song that already grabs you by the lapels and doesn’t let go until it’s done. The mix hides Troy Robey’s bass playing a little too much for me, but a close listen reveals he understands his role buttressing the song’s bottom end and he serves the song well.
Some vocalists sing over their band and create an audible tension between the vocal and instrumental performances. This approach serves some material well, but more often than not for me it undercuts a song’s potential. Tackling “City of Love” in such a way wouldn’t have worked and Pastine knows that. She is clearly interested in being the lead singer rather than the star and tailors her vocal performance to serve the music in much the same way the players shape their efforts to complement her voice. You can hear this in the way she takes on the lyrics, her phrasing, and how Shellooe’s production treats her voice in the mix.
The song’s message is clear while remaining open to interpretation. It undoubtedly means something to Pastine, but any listener can take away what they like from this song without affecting the performance or their experience of it. This is one of the hallmarks of great material. This accessibility helps further distinguish Pastine’s material from the plethora of retro minded bands and artists working today in the mainstream and indie scenes. “City of Love” may prove to be the track that pushes Pastine and her band mates over the line from indie phenomena into the mainstream and, if so, they deserve the push. This is music that, in my opinion, the widest possible audiences should enjoy and I can’t wait to hear more from Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene.