Monday, January 26, 2015

Screen Door Porch - Modern Settler

New York. LA. Chicago. Austin. Nashville. Seattle. Jackson Hole. Wait. What? WYOMING???

Screen Door Porch (web | Twitter) will release their third album - Modern Settler on February 10th.

Seadar Rose and Aaron Davis front the band musically, lyrically and vocally. Though now based in Wyoming, the duo have southern roots in North Carolina and Kentucky. That background seems to have influenced the song's musical arrangements - though most of the lyrics are heavily rooted in the great expanse of the western states. For Modern Settler, the band's grooving rhythm sound is rounded out with Tom Davidson on bass and Andy Peterson on drums.

The album is a fun listen from beginning to end. A few of the ten tracks are straight-forward musically with thought-provoking, poetic lyrics. Others have a very full, rich sound resulting from complex yet enjoyable musical arrangements including slide guitar, an organ, horns, interesting percussion additions, and solid-yet-jazzlike drumming.

Collectively, the sound and vocals remind me a bit of Donna The Buffalo ... and The Reivers from the late 1980s ... and Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs.

The album's opener Wild Ways grabs you from the jump. While easy to simply enjoy its wonderful music fullness, additional absorption of the lyrics causes you to stop and think "whoa, now this is pretty dark."

Shouldn't be the one to guide you outta the fray
Absurd enough there’s a middle man leading the way 
Your parents withdrew when it all hit hit the fan
A stage dive met with nowhere else to land

The Canyon was the first song written by Rose and Davis for the album.The groove to it is immediately addictive along with the organ, guitar riffs and drumming. But the musical aspects are trumped in my opinion by Rose's sultry vocals. Rose and Davis were inspired to write the song by the magnificence of  a canyon noted from atop Dead Indian Pass on the Wyoming-Montana border.


1937 starts the second half of the album and opens with a slide guitar riff and a hint of a cool, eerie and evil echo. Davis was led to write the song based on some of the early American settlers in Wyoming who were granted a bit of land and 600 bucks cash as US railroads began to cross the expanding nation. (As an aside, be sure to read the late Stephen Ambrose's great book Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869.)

Rose returns to lead vocals on her song Little Bit More. The track is arguably one of the richest ones musically with horns, keys, slide guitar, and a solid rhythm on toms but no snare.

The band seems to have had a genuinely fun time recording Wish I Was a Teton. You can't help but smile as you listen to it.

Wish I was a Teton, maybe the middle 
Or I could be Buck and still be tough
Standing tall through hard times and all

But as it stands I’m just a little hill
Starved for attention because I never get mentioned
I’d even settle to be called a butte

The album closes with She Speaks Through Me. Though its lyrics are sparse, the song seems to be arranged as somewhat of an encore. Davis opens with a Roy Orbison'ish vibrato, and Rose soon joins him with wonderful harmony vocals. Many of the instruments present in various songs make a return appearance on She Speaks. Also, Peterson's drumming is more straight-forward rock rather some of the more subdued fills present in earlier songs.


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