Album review: Scott Pemberton, ‘Timber Rock,’ splinters sounds with an ax

HIgh Siera 2014Scott Pemberton is a man who sees joy and possibilities in the form of guitar, and his latest album, “Timber Rock,” is a testament to that.

His ninja-like innovation on the ax has been on display since his 2012 release “Sugar Mama,” and he has been gaining a solid fanbase touring the country behind his fun-loving approach to the guitar. Despite all the traveling he has been doing lately, he still is a product of the weird and wonderful Portland, Oregon, where labels are irrelevant and everything is a touch quirky. Pemberton pays homage to his Pemberton GuitarmageddonNorthwest roots on his latest album, “Timber Rock,” which finds the guitarist blending a little bit of everything into a zany musical collage that has the light-hearted yet sincere feel of a suede portrait of Elvis you’d find in the back room of a thrift shop.

Pemberton seems to approach his music with the attitude of “Why not?” and “Timber Rock” is his answer to that question. Pemberton isn’t afraid to let his enthusiasm for guitar be resigned to one type of style. The album’s opener “One Time” skips along to Pemberton’s funky guitar hook and lets the guitarist stretch some of his more nimble licks into the rhythm. Why not follow that song with “Elbow Grease,” where Pemberton switches the groove from AC/DC power riffs to a James Brown slinky rhythm without missing a beat. “Greig” sounds like surf guitarist Dick Dale jamming with an acid jazz band, in the best way possible.

One of the best tracks on the album is the instrumental “Prudence,” which closes out the album. Pemberton beautifully drives the song with a crunchy melodic phrasing that weaves in and out between angsty and carefree. The song doesn’t really seem to sound similar to the rest of the songs on the album, which is exactly why it belongs there.

The success of this album is that Pemberton can craft his guitar explorations in different styles into something that can be consumed by everyone. He has knack for catchy riffs and hooks and his guitar freakouts sound more emotive than technical, even though he rips it in a way only the most gifted guitarists can. “What I Do” has one of the more catchy guitar hooks recorded recently, and sees Pemberton musing about why he can’t hold down any other occupation besides rocking guitar player.  “But I play the guitar pretty well, it’s true, I am going to show you in a minute/ Then you’ll understand/ Why this is what I do/ All I do/ Cause it’s all I really can do,” Pemberton sings before ripping into a joyful outro solo.

Playing guitar is just what Scott Pemberton does, and he does it like only he can do.

  • Scott Pemberton Trio
    ‘Timber Rock’
    Release: March 17, 2015
    Notable songs: ‘What I Do,” “Prudence,” “Elbow Grease”
    Purchase: LINK
  • Scott Pemberton at Lake Thaoe

    — 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20 at Live at Lakeview, Lakeview Commons, South Lake Tahoe

    — 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21 in the Crystal Bay Casino Red Room, Crystal Bay

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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