Field Guide

They sound like entries in a Boy Scout Survival Manual, but actually Deep Dark Woods and Deer Tick are two of the more sought-after bands in roots rock, and they’re heading for the Edge of Music City to play Roots this week. Add Tristen, beloved, darkly sparkling pop songstress, and we’re looking at a sublime and sophisticated bill that feels like midnight at Bonnaroo more than our usual back porch fare. Plus, all three have superb new album releases to share with you. Then we’ll throw in some Southern literary flair with the spoken word magic of Minton Sparks and an exciting emerging artist appearance by Sherriff Scott and the Deputies. If you think it’s challenging week-in-week-out to find a theme or thread in our eclectic lineups, you’d be right, and this one is a doozy. I’ll just file it under “fascinating” with cross-references to gothic noir, wildlife, frontier justice and dance pop. Herewith, your field guide to the Fauna Americana coming to the Loveless on Wednesday night:

Bands achieve certain thresholds of notoriety and validation, and sometimes you don’t know what they are until they smack you in the face – or go viral. For Deer Tick, the irascible, edgy and fiery roots rock band out of Providence, RI, one such marker is the new, utterly NSFW (or radio) video campaign featuring celebrity friends like Wyatt Cenac, Conan O’Brien and Bryan Cranston just insulting the hell out of the band. They can take it. They’re a big freaking deal, as sold out shows and major attention to the new Negativity album from the New York Times, Relix, Rolling Stone and Garden & Gun. Here’s my own review of the album: En Fuego. John McCauly’s writing is searingly honest and smart as he pokes into some of the wounds he’s suffered in the last couple of years. His singing is emotional, believable and balanced on the razor’s edge between tuneful and raw. Musically, it’s a feast, with rapturous horns, grand climaxes and a guitar solo on “Trash” that floored me. Since forming in 2004, the band’s grown more layered and intricate without losing the rockin’ fever that made debut War Elephant so exciting.

Now let’s plunge into The Deep Dark Woods. Moody and involved, this roots rock and alt-country band was formed in 2005 in Saskatoon, which is among Canada’s most fun city names to say over and over. DDW is not merely on one badass Americana record label but two. Six Shooter Records takes care of the boys in their native land. Our own Sugar Hill Records represents them stateside. And the newest creation from this sincere and bearded quintet via those trusted channels is Jubilee, a moody and borderline psychedelic album that was just hailed by one reviewer as a “late night classic.” I debuted the project in tandem with something I rarely do – a hot bath. TMI, I know, but I wish to point out that the warm enveloping feeling was an evocative and appropriate environment in which to experience the project. Woozy soundscapes and fluid tempos made an ideal space for Ryan Boldt’s spectral voice. If you’re new to these guys, think My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Fleet Foxes. They’re in the same territory and hopefully on the same trajectory.

And completing our trio of new release celebrations we’ll feature the return of Tristen, Nashville’s ambitious, creative and unpredictable vixen of vibe. She says a little sardonically that she wanted to “piss of the folkies” with her new album CAVES. But you’d have to be a real curmudgeon to not enjoy this boppy, atmospheric blend of pop and electronica. Something about her country/folk origins just can’t be banished, even as she’s pulling off choreographed ensemble go-go moves in the elaborate video for the infectious single “No One’s Gonna Know.” Her voice has a pristine clarity that reminds me of Aimee Mann, with curious twisty vowels that keep me entranced. It will be very good to catch up with Tristen to see how the CAVES roll-out has gone.

It has been entirely too long since we invited Minton Sparks over to the Barn, and we hope you’re hip to her unique magic. Rarely does an artist come along, especially in what I think I can confidently call middle-age, being so disposed myself, who creates a new force and virtually a new genre within Americana/roots culture. After much pondering, Sparks tagged her art “speaker-songwriter” in that it’s character-based story-telling but with the cadences and economy of a fine songwriter. Plus she does her pieces with a live musician who sets a languid, bluesy mood. We’ve called her our “Dark Minnie Pearl.” Nashville’s Minton Sparks has become a national star, and it will be a treat to have her back.

And since all this is going to lead to more fun than the law will allow, we’re rounding out the night with emerging artists Sheriff Scott & The Deputies. Actually Scott himself – Nashville’s man about town Mr. Simontacchi – is well known as a former member of the Biscuit Boys and a solo artist who’s played MCR once before. His new band seems to be a country/bluegrass hybrid. I got to catch a couple of songs at the recent Lyons, CO flood benefit, and his patriotic little number about America is still looping amiably in my head.

So it’s wild, weird and different. Put on your hiking boots and follow the trail less taken. We’ll be there with maps and compasses.

Craig H.

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