CD Reviews: Band of Horses, Dunder Chiefs, Fowler's Mustache
Band of Horses’ latest CD is a collection of some of their best songs performed live in April of 2013 at Nashville’s Ryman theatre. The band stripped away their effects pedals and big amps for an acoustic performance, what I found was a reason to love Band of Horses all over again. This release is less My Morning Jacket production, and more Crosby Stills and Nash performance. Acoustic At The Ryman features a looseness to the songs that is far different from the studio precision of their previous four releases. This relaxed delivery captures the emotion and feeling of their songs in fresh ways that any Band Of Horses should enjoy. People new to the group will appreciate the talent on display as the antithesis of auto-tuned live miming rock bands.
Though they make their home here, don’t expect to catch Band of Horses playing around town often. If you’re not familiar with the band, they are a very successful international touring group with four studio CDs, one Grammy nomination (for their 2010 CD Infinite Arms), and multiple chart climbing singles. Last week Citibank had them play their Super Bowl party in NYC, but they are still independent in many ways. Acoustic at the Ryman is being released on lead singer Ben Bridwell’s own Brown Records label Feb 11th.
I’ve written a much longer review for No Depression that you can read here.
Local bands like The Bushels better take note that there is a new banjo and harmony band that’s going to be stealing a lot of gigs around town. Having just relocated to Charleston, the Dunder Chiefs arrive with Kicking Rocks, a foot-stomping bluegrass-with-soul (they call it soulgrass) collection of tunes. The CD features some rousing banjo and rapid fire catchy melodies about writing songs, the Carolinas, and a good simple life. Harmonies and backing vocals weave their way through the entire collection in a way that shows a precise dedication to their craft, but feels as relaxed as a spring afternoon on a front porch with a mason jar in hand.
The band is Will Thompson on guitar, Michael "Nog" Linog killing it on banjo and Tony Linog handles the percussion, while all three trade off lead singing duties. The CD shines with great picking and singing. Where it falls a little flat is a bass that is muddied throughout, and drums that switch from drum machine to a live kit that sounds dull and buried on many songs. However, bass and drums are not why you’d enjoy this CD.
Kicking Rocks is solid debut from a group that has a clear direction, a knack for songs that hook you, and impressive performances. These guys have skills. The closing seven minute epic ballad “The Wave/Wire” successfully recalls the band while mixing in piano and trumpet. It’s a fine closing example that the Dunder Chiefs can bring their mix of bluegrass, folk, and a little soul to a greater audience.
The second CD from the local classic-rock influenced group Fowler's Mustache opens with the sounds of a guy calling out to his friend Brad who is getting in his car to drive away. We hear the car radio switch through static and stations (does anyone have a dial radio in their car anymore) catching snippets of namesake meteorologist Rob Fowler on the news, “Watermelon” from locals Sol Driven Train, and a bit of a news report before the radio locks onto the first CD track, “American Son.” It’s a driving tune with blistering guitar solos, about Bradley (presumably the Brad that took off in the opening sound bite) heading out with a gun and a gut full anger about corporate greed and oil spills.
The CD features touches of Psychedelic rock, jam band, soul, Americana, and beach-friendly summer anthems. Through it all, this is a guitar record, and a darn good one at that. Dual electric guitarists Thomas McElwee and Nick Collins trade off tasteful riffs and extended solos on just about every song.
Yes, this is the same Nick Collins who was nearly killed in a 2012 car accident. Goodnight Mother Earth was almost completed prior to his accident, but like a true band, Fowler’s Mustache shelved the recording until after Nick was able to rejoin them. In the second song, “Back Porch,” lead singer Matt Stanley advises someone to keep the house safe while he is gone. I can’t help but think this was a parallel to Nick asking his mates to keep the band in tact until he can return. They did a heck of a job.
Bassist Chris Richter turns in a very impressive performance, and keyboardist Matt Gross adds flavor just where it is needed, while drummer John Tankersly keeps the band together through a wide range of styles. Guest singer Mary Gilmore lends some vocals to the groovy “Sugar Momma.”
Recorded at Encore Music’s back room recording studio, Goodnight Mother Earth does not carve out new ground, but manages to make a very easy to enjoy guitar record.
Correction: last week we ran a photo of the Windjammer taken by T. Ballard Lesemann without permission. We apologize to Ballard.