Joseph Running Crane first showed up on the Missoula music scene almost 10 years ago with Goddammitboyhowdy, a fast and loose punk band nurtured in Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. Lesser known was his other project, the Holy Family Mission Band, which pulled its influences from classic country music. Ladybug, the new EP from Running Crane and his backup band, the Dirty Birds, offers a nice combination of those styles, especially on the title track, which starts as a warm, even-keeled country-folk song before breaking away into a dark, reckless gallop.
Ladybug is not a refined collection—it would lose its charm if it was. Running Crane has the storytelling sensibility of Townes Van Zandt and vocals that evoke the wild abandon of Flogging Molly's Dave King. He paints a landscape of poisoned streams and towering mountains, owls swooping toward their prey and a narrator who always seems to occupy the liminal zone in between asleep and awake, dark and light, beauty and ugliness, coming and going. The Dirty Birds are integral to that aesthetic, and Sam Platts on Telecaster and William Saylor on fiddle are especially adept at pulling off a tone somewhere between manic celebration and spiraling sorrow.
Joseph Running Crane and the Dirty Birds play an EP release show at the VFW Sat., April 15, at 9 PM.