Stones to Sand

Achilles Wheel’s new Stones to Sand CD hits all the right marks, somehow harnessing all of the sunshiny jamming essence of its live shows onto this 4.7-inch disc. For a jam band to be truly extraordinary, quality songs need set the stage for the improvisation that follows. And this Nevada City-based five-piece passes that acid test. Principal songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Paul Kamm comes to the table with an impressive portfolio, including a large catalog of songs written with partner and frequent duo-mate Eleanor Macdonald. Jonny “Mojo” Flores, a gifted lead guitarist with some Dickey Betts in his DNA apparently, also contributed three songs on this disc. Their song-crafting prowess is on full display, as all the tunes here are intelligent, melodic and catchy. Kamm’s up-tempo “Nobody Drinks if the Bottle’s Dry” is a particularly clever dance-party number, and Flores’ “Heal My Soul” starts with a gospel feel and then at the five-minute mark kicks up a lot of dust with a searing, revival-like guitar-led jam, only to conclude with a righteous “heal my soul” repetition at the end. In addition to the crafty songs, Achilles Wheel does pack an improvisational wallop. With Kamm and Flores providing the guitar wizardry, Gary Campus and Mark McCartney add a superb twin drumming attack alongside bassist Shelby Snow.