“Sparks Fly Again,” says the very second song on Beachwood Sparks’ back-in-the-saddle album Tarnished Gold on Sub Pop, and that’s just what we got here on their first big release in ten years—the fire is re-lit, the harmonies are soaring toward the heavens and you can hear the pedal steel smiling wide at the end of every verse. (If ever an instrumental could practically sit back and say, “Hey, man!” … well, hey to you, too, little buddy!) There was a too-brief flare-up reunion tour in 2008 as the Sparks’ home label Sub Pop celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and much heartfelt joy was had, but then this much-beloved L.A. band re-disbanded and things collapsed back to boring normal. Well, it wasn’t all bad—but if you missed the spirits of Gene Clark or Clarence White, you weren’t gonna get much closer than a ouija board and a whiskey bottle. But now Tarnished Gold is here to heal the sick and raise the dead and make everybody irrespective of age and gender get outta their heads … and it’s gonna do that with some fearlessly beautiful songs that just slice right to the heart of everything. There’s something to be said for lived experience, and it’s something that gets said in probably all your most beloved last-call country songs, and if there’s something new on this album, it’s that rare and quiet power that you earn instead of learn—the one that connects joy to sorrow to death and rebirth in a way that maybe makes a little sense to you, and maybe you can put some of it in a song. Or a lot of songs. Guy Clark does it, Iris DeMent does it and … well, the last two tracks on this Beachwood Sparks album are a one-two punch of something strong and real. If you don’t cry, well, that’s fine. But you’re gonna feel it. — Chris Ziegler

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