Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thankfully Semi-Twang is not Fully Twang

More than twenty years ago - seriously? can it really have been that long ago? - I picked up the debut release by a band called Semi-Twang. I don't recall exactly how I learned about Salty Tears. It was likely a review in Rolling Stone or Pulse, the Tower Records magazine.

I had already latched onto my share of twang by getting into artists and bands such as R.E.M., Blue Rodeo, Joe Ely, E.I.E.I.O., The Rainmakers, Lone Justice, The Silos, etc. No question the band's name caught my attention. If twang was involved, I was convinced it would align nicely with these other artists I'd really begun to enjoy.

It turns out the first half of their band name was the part I underestimated. The band was only kind of ... that is, semi ... twangy. But that was OK. I really enjoyed the CD - and still do to this day. I enjoyed it enough that I kept my eyes open in the store bins and in magazines for info about a follow-up release. But it never came.

Over the years, I've pulled Salty Tears off the shelf and listened to it many times over - not something I can say about everything in my collection. (Click here and scroll down about half-way to listen to a couple of band-provided tracks from their debut.) In the pre-web days though, it was weird not knowing how this talented band could end up as a one-and-done.

Then the e-mail arrived several weeks ago. I'm not sure if the publicity folks found me through this blog, tracked me down through my monthly contributions to Feel Bad For You, or what other sources they used. Either way, the news was so surprising I had to read it a couple of times. After a 23-year absence, sure 'nuff Semi-Twang was back with their second release, Wages of Sin.

As was the case 20+ years ago, my attention was snagged. One, because after a 23-year absence, I was floored to realize a second album was actually here. Two, Wages Of Sin was also a song title by The Rainmakers - so the hook was set.

You might think after a two-decade pause between recordings, a second release might move Semi-Twang to Fully-Twang. Listen to a few of their tracks, however, and I think you'll find Semi is the part they continue to embrace best. Some bluesy riffs, a nice dose of organ without going overboard, and generally a mature sound and vocals - to be expected from performers who have added a good bit of gray to their look. Yet, there is enough distortion, fuzz, and nasally tone to qualify for the twang portion. Musically, the band is very tight as a unit while still playing a bit loose for their style.

Song listing:
  • Sonny Liston (MP3)
  • Do Right - Organ starts > guitar with slight distortion > drum fade-in > 2nd guitar > vox - all seamless with great groove
  • The Wages of Sin (MP3)
  • Just A Train - conjures a bit of Little Village (John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner) from ... guess what ... yep, 20 years ago
  • I Can't Read Your Mind - hints of Marshall Crenshaw or Elvis Costello
  • When the Wind Kicks Up
  • Its That Time Again - first of the back-to-back, most enjoyable tracks for me
  • Nervous Energy - has a Todd Snider'esque vibe to it for me
  • Your Name Was In It (MP3)
  • Move It Or Lose It
  • Doubting Thomas - Guilty as charged. Never thought I'd see another release by these guys - maybe they didn't either!
  • When My Angel Smiles - the longest track of the album at 4 minutes even with somewhat of a haunting-sound.
As is common with many folks, I generally learn the names of band members whose albums I listen to over the years. With Semi-Twang's single release, however, I never really took the time to learn about the individual members. I just listened to the CD, shelved the jewel case, and didn't think much more about it.

This time, though, I tried to dig around a bit more about the band. Lo and behold, Mike Hoffman who was and still is in Semi-Twang was in E.I.E.I.O. back in the day - one of the bands that helped cement my interest in twang. Tonight, I pulled their 1988 CD Land of Opportunity off the shelf, opened the liner notes, and ta-daaa there he was.

Furthermore, Hoffman has contributed recently to Florizona, the latest album by The Silos. Walter Salas-Humara has been known to change the members of the The Silos over the years about as often as I change socks. But it was cool to learn yet another connection between multiple bands I enjoy.

My suggestion? Go ahead and get both Semi-Twang so you can be fully twanged. Besides, I'm not sure any of us can wait another 20 years for release number 3.


No comments:

Post a Comment