"OK to Go"
"Take Me Home"
An accomplished if unsurprising blend of rock, folk, funk and jazz, Virginia Coalition's "OK to Go" is the Alexandria-rooted quartet's latest step toward the mainstream. The album doesn't alter the band's recipe, which combines the Dave Matthews Band and vintage R.E.M. with a dollop of D.C.'s go-go, but it was supervised by big-league producer Matt Wallace, whose presence suggests that the locally popular Coalition is inching closer to national recognition.
The album -- whose title tweaks "Good to Go," a go-go catchphrase -- reprises the infectiously go-go-fied "Walk to Work" from the band's previous CD, "Rock & Roll Party." More typical, however, are such tuneful, gently up-tempo tracks as "Last Goodbye" and the aptly titled "Mason Dixon," which continue the style of '80s Southern folk-rock. Though such songs as "Abby Are You Endless" do hit harder, "OK to Go" is fundamentally smooth. The eclectic Coalition can convincingly replicate many styles, but one thing it can't simulate is having an edge.
Although Zox's "Take Me Home" opens with a violin solo, Spencer Swain's fiddling is not at the center of the band's sound. This Providence, R.I., quartet sets singer-guitarist Eli Miller's rueful songs to a variety of Jamaican cadences, suggesting a jam-band variation on such ska-punk combos as Goldfinger. On such songs as "Ghostown" and "Ode to the Mountain Pirates," Swain and the rhythm section provide jaunty counterpoint to Miller's existential dread. Still, it's hard to dispel the mood of such lines as "I walk upon these cemetery streets / And I don't speak the language of the skeletons."
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Saturday at 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Virginia Coalition, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8107; to hear Zox, press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)