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A couple of indie releases in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week, one from one-time local band (and theyâ€™ve only relocated to the Boston area) Tallahassee and the other from a fellow whom The Avett Brothers catapulted his popularity on the Americana scene.
Letâ€™s get to it.
The band Tallahassee has been has been kicking around Providence and the New England area since around 2008. Label it one of the few bands to have an ex-NFL player, a former New England Patriot at that, in lead singer/guitarist Brian Barthelmes, in its ranks. Whereas that sort of notoriety makes for good press, if a band doesnâ€™t have talent it wonâ€™t get you any further than the novelty circuit. One listen to Tallhasseeâ€™s third full-length release called â€śOld Waysâ€ť and one will quickly realize this is a band that has both talent and chops. Formed in Providence in 2008, but these days based out of Boston for all intents and purposes, Tallahassee is comprised of Barthelmes, bassist Shawn Carney, drummer Matt Raskopf and guitarist Scott Thompson. At its outset, Tallahassee was quickly pegged as a latter-era alt country or Americana band, if you will. As the band has matured, its sound has also branched out. There is no better indication of that than â€śOld Ways.â€ť On it, Tallahassee offers a multitude of sonic looks from resounding rock to feedback to spare acoustics to the all-of-40-seconds title track done pseudo a capella style (check out the â€śPool Singing Sessionsâ€ť Youtube video of this recorded at an indoor pool at a hotel in Louisiana) to tracks that offer a faceoff between solitude and noise (â€śIâ€™ll Be Damnedâ€ť is resplendent in that respect). Whereas the music is oft-times compelling, the songwriting, most all personal in nature, is impressive. All members come from small towns and shards of that sensibility are all over the leadoff track â€śOld Brown Shoes.â€ť It lays the groundwork for thematic undercurrent of the material to follow. In other words, a change is gonna come as the following songs find Tallahassee singing of the need to move on from those familiar â€śold waysâ€ť to new chapters. The funny thing is that by albumâ€™s end (the closer â€śWhere Oh Whereâ€ť) they seem to have cycled back to those beginnings seeking the comfort of the country. Along the way, thereâ€™s darkness, too, in the song cycle from graveyards and â€ścemetery treesâ€ť to dealing with the devil. The musical tone follows suit. In all, â€śOld Waysâ€ť is a cohesive collection of songs that evolve just as the band likely intended them to do. Itâ€™s a good one. Visit www.tallahasseetheband.com.
David Mayfield Parade
â€śGood Man Downâ€ť
David Mayfieldâ€™s musical roots run deep thanks in large part to his role as a youngster as part of the family bluegrass band which also included his sister Jessica Lea Mayfield who has made her own waves on the solo recording scene. He has shared stages with the likes of The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons when a member of the bluegrass band Cadillac Sky. Simply put, if youâ€™ve seen David Mayfield perform you are not likely to forget. Blame that on a combination of a friendly and warm tenor voice, significant musical chops, and an engaging stage personality. The Ohio native is funny as heck. Whereas the humor doesnâ€™t necessarily come across on his recordings, the voice and charm certainly do. â€śGood Man Downâ€ť is the sophomore release from he and his band The David Mayfield Parade and its likeability quotient is established straight out of the gates and lets up nary a bit over the course of the albumâ€™s dozen tracks. Whereas his previous self-titled debut album had a bluegrass flavoring, â€śGood Man Downâ€ť sees Mayfield expand his musical palette in multiple directions with nary a misstep. It also features some very notable guests including sister Jessica Lea Mayfield, Seth Avett, bluegrass stars Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and country start Dierks Bentley who duets with Mayfield on the Marty Stuart hit â€śTempted.â€ť Itâ€™s an album that effectively pushes all the buttons of emotion and what with such a â€śfriendlyâ€ť voice, a number of the songs of â€śGood Man Downâ€ť have a dark side to them including the melancholy â€śLove Will Only Break Your Heartâ€ť to the creepy undertones of standout track â€śWas It Only Me.â€ť Recommended. Visit www.davidmayfieldparade.com.
What was just supposed to be a straight-up gig when originally booked is now a fundraiser for Dave Lamb of the band Brown Bird. Lamb was recently diagnosed with a form of leukemia and the local music community has been stepping up in a big time way with benefit shows. Friday night is the next benefit and it goes down at the Columbus Theater in Providence (270 Broadway) and features Nashville hardcore country troubadour J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices with our own Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons for what promises to be a terrific evening of music and for a great cause, to boot.
The aromatic sounds of Calexico are oft-times hypnotic. On their last album â€śAlgiers,â€ť the band headed to New Orleans and that flavor and then some creeps into the music. They bring their worldly sounds to The Met CafĂ© (1005 Main St., Pawtucket) on Saturday night. Arc Iris is in the opening slot. Doors are at 8 p.m. and music begins at 9 p.m.
Few bands do instrumental rock as well as the masked marauders of surf rock, Los Straitjackets. They return to the area on Saturday night for an appearance at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River (16 Anawan St.). Sarah Borges is in the opening slot. Music begins at 8 p.m.
Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of â€śThe Boudin Barndanceâ€ť broadcast Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.