Soulful San Francisco psychers Crooked Flower unleashed their new live album, Blooming – The Light Rail Sessions, earlier this year, bringing it all back home to that mythic Haight nexus where Janis and Moby Grape would open for the J. Airplane at the Avalon Ballroom. Them Crooked Flowers consists of  Angie Dang on vocals, Dan Ingberman on the gee-tars Daniel Erik on four strings and Patrick Shields on the beats. The strange-brew cohesiveness between the four is front and center on this record, with the band achieving a rich warm tone that lets these tunes bend and hum.

Dang delivers as the charismatic front woman. She has an exotic look and Grace Potteresque style to her vocals. She sings in a style that manages to be both commanding and smooth, a very rare feat for a lead vocalist. She leads this high, fervent folk-rock Psychedelic jam band with confidence and wit. I listened to a few of their earlier tracks, including “Too Broke to Fly” which received last years’ award for best song on KUBU 96.5 Sacramento. It proves to be a driving, infectious song that plays up Dang’s swirling vocals. They have truly evolved on this album.

On the single “Candy in My Dreams” it is obvious she has met the Devil at the crossroads to fine-tune those vocals sometime in the past year. Plus, Erik and Shields have really locked in here, achieving a rubbery, thick-toned hum that not only keeps the back end up but also lurches the song forward.

“Who You Are Do I Want You” kicks off with a thumping bass that flirts hard with a trippy drum beat. This creates a haunting, ethereal vibe that is brand new territory for this crew. Dang comes in with her best vocals on the record, taking her folk rock delivery down a notch to better suit the track. Her voice floats above the atmospheric rhythms as whiplash guitar pierces the song around at the halfway mark. It’s a complex journey, with Dang lamenting “I can’t change” with a refreshing honesty that flies in the face of all the “I can change” songs that seem to be kicking around at the moment.

“Came To Me in your Dreams Part 2” ends this charming, smoothly mixed album, relying on guitar to stir up the dust into intoxicating smoke ring haziness. It’s mainly an instrumental focusing on Ingberman’s  guitar swirls, with Shields keeping time on the kit while Erik jams his bass to pure spellbinding perfection. Dang’s vocals are curiously absent until 8 minutes into the track. She slides in and carries the tune to the finish line, and it’s a pure joy to hear her come crashing in with her R&B soul vocals colliding with the bass.

Crooked Flower keeps it tight while playing it loose. Keep them on your radar, for the Crooks are all set to bloom hard in the coming years.

Tina Romano