Song Of The Day 6/23/2016: American Spring – “Sweet Mountain”

The Life of Brian – This piece of exquisite moodiness came from sisters Marilyn Wilson and Diane Rovell, who originally were in The Honeys, sort of an all-female companion group to the Beach Boys in the early '60s. Brian produced and wrote a lot of their stuff, although Diane co-wrote a couple of my favorite Honeys tracks, "Shoot the Curl" and "Pray for Surf." They also did backup singing for people like Jan & Dean and played on several bills with the Boys. As the Honeys' popularity ebbed and Brian was gearing up for going all-in with the Pet Sounds songs, Marilyn wed Brian in late '64 and had two daughters who eventually became two-thirds of '90s vocal trio Wilson Phillips.

In the early '70s, after Brian began withdrawing from leadership of the Beach Boys, Marilyn and Diane reunited to form the duo Spring. They were rechristened American Spring after a British progressive rock band also named Spring threatened them with legal action before promptly breaking up themselves. American Spring's work sort of extended the lowish-fi, brooding work Brian was doing in his home studio, not to mention the Beach Boys' post-'60s fallout work like the sort of bummed-out Surf's Up album. The American Spring album contains a lot of covers, reined in by some studio darkness and the sisters' modest vocal approach. It works for their off-kilter version of "Tennessee Waltz," not so much from the strangely busy cover of "Superstar." But the Brian composition "Sweet Mountain" is almost perfect, swaddled in melancholy, fatigued emotion, partially French lyrics and almost as much emotional retreat as Nico Tribute Night. If there was ever such a thing as "California gothic," this is it.

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