Hard Enough to Bend
Though all his albums (acoustic and electric) radiate heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity, David Boone’s newest recording has—in addition to candor—a sense of emotional and instrumental focus. The songs delve into sorrowful tales matched by minor chords, but Boone is an inventive guitar player and deft enough at storytelling that the weight of dark issues doesn’t drown out his reverence for a life lived fully.
It’s the stark contrasts that give the album texture and cohesion: small town pleasures of Seeley Lake are inextricably coupled with the reality of an alcoholic father, and people who harden themselves to love find that hard veneers are the most fragile of all. Everyone has heard these themes before. What personalizes Hard Enough to Bend are the details. Lyrical turns like “I grew up on the outskirts of heaven” followed by “you’d be surprised but I ain’t never going back” show a Springsteen-like awareness of what home really means. And when he finishes the song “Norfolk Bay,” Boone doesn’t just fade out, you can hear him stand up and walk out still playing his guitar. It’s a recording detail that mimics the album’s refreshing composition and unapologetic frankness. (Erika Fredrickson)
David Boone plays a CD release party for Hard Enough to Bend at the Crystal Theatre Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 PM. Ryan Bundy opens. $8 in advance/$10 at the door/$2 off for Missoula Folklore Society members.
Gritrock. Scorch-porch. Beergrass. Hick-hop. It’s hard to settle on just one to label Austin’s hayseed misfits the Gourds. Whatever it’s called, the greasy chaos of the Gourds’ signature mix of guitar, accordion and fiddle music is the sort that grabs you by the musical cojones and doesn’t let go—but in a way that makes you happy, as evidenced by the band’s growing fan legion.
The Gourds describe their target demographic as “the unwashed and well read,” which goes a long way toward explaining the high concentration of Gourdheads (Gourdanians? Gourdites?) around these parts. Most of the band’s local following has come on the heels of their incendiary Missoula shows over the years (including their last appearance in September at The Other Side), so it may come as a surprise to some that Heavy Ornamentals is the group’s ninth studio album.
While not as polished as 2004’s stellar Blood of the Ram (“polished” being a relative term here—Ram’s final cut is titled “Turd in My Pocket”), Heavy Ornamentals is vintage Gourds all the way, a rollicking, heaping mess of songs that feel like they were mixed in a blender and delivered as a sweet puree. (Nick Davis)
The Gourds have announced their next Missoula show at The Other Side Saturday, March 25. Tickets go on sale March 4, available at the Kettlehouse for $16.
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon
Sixty Six Steps
Leo Kottke’s most recent release is a foray into syncopation alongside former Phish bassist Mike Gordon. If it weren’t for the screwball lyrics on some of the songs, this second effort by the harmoniously odd duo would lift the listener right out of midwinter Montana and land her in a hammock strung between two palm trees. When these two get together, the music bubbles up and brims over the previous limits of what either has accomplished on his own—and the lyrics to the songs spiral past breezy novelty into silliness.
This is where the cover tunes on the album save the day. Using the preexisting forms of songs by folks like Pete Seeger, Fleetwood Mac and Aerosmith as springboards, Kottke and Gordon launch into exciting calypso-laced explorations. The resulting sound is as fresh and bouncy as any Phish song, but stays grounded via Kottke’s more mature guitar sensibility.
Sixty Six Steps proves that solo guitar virtuoso Kottke can break out of his mold, leave plenty of space for Gordon to shine, and still cut a grooving and fun album in the process. (Caroline Keys)
Leo Kottke (sans Mike Gordon) plays at the University Theatre Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 8 PM. $21 in advance/ $23 day of show. Call 243-4051.
Homesweet and Leery
Based in Portland, Celilo takes its name from the oldest settlement in Oregon, established on the banks of the Columbia River at least 10,000 years ago. Perhaps that was the inspiration behind the band’s latest release, a bittersweet, genuine and old-time-tinged effort full of rootsy harmonizing titled Homesweet and Leery.
On songs like “Melancholy Wing,” Celilo sounds like a ’70s country-rock band, like the Doobie Brothers, but less amplified. It’s one of the better tracks on the album at harnessing the band’s throwback sound. The exception is “Something You Can’t Fix,” where they come across like the cheesy tune over the ending credits of any early 1990s romantic comedy. They sing: “Only thing I wish for now…is to say a little prayer for me in the heaven of your heart.” Meg Ryan’s image appears instantly.
Vocalist/guitarist Sloan Martin wrote all but one song and brings a heavy bluegrass influence to Celilo’s sound. The rest of the band brings a background touching on everything from country to hip-hop, delivering enough variety to keep the band’s sound fresh. It’s a sound that’s rooted in an earlier time, but one that looks forward. (Ashley Brittner)
Celilo plays Sean Kelly’s Saturday, Feb. 11, at 10 PM.