Damn Tall Buildings – Sleeping Dogs
The immediate impression is their fine vocals & pristine instrumentation. As good as all that is, however, they still fall short of the traditional warmth of say The Carter Family if they emulate their traditional-oriented bluegrass, folk & Americana. But all is not lost – some of their material while cooking had too much sugar added to the mix. Too much pop sensibility. While the performance is impressive & it is — with their good rich melodies & lyrics – they fall into a Lady Antebellum, Dixie Chicks sweetness.
So, what to do? Just like a high-class Italian restaurant, they drizzle a little cold water over the steaming spaghetti in the colander & it locks in the al dente firmness to render the music closer to a more persuasive tradition instead of eventually disposal pablum. The group is damn close to excellence with songs like “Cold Rain.” Here the performance is precise & the vocals resonate with vibrancy.
“Lemons” is mindful of the late John Hartford & expressive. This is where the band needs to be – consistently. They are free of restraints; they can modernize but don’t lose focus of the musical genre. They load up the bluegrass, roots, old-time music & vintage swing.
The album begins to gain momentum after “Cold Rain.”
The 33-minute, 11-cut, 3rd LP Sleeping Dogs (Drops Sept 9–Independent) was produced by Brooklyn-indie-folk trio Damn Tall Buildings. Philadelphia vocalist Sasha Dubyk is always excellent but on the 2 short tunes, her solo on “Patio,” & duet vocals on “Painter” – exceptional. Very enjoyable performances.
They’re an engaging trio & they indeed know what they’re doing. What’s an added value is their original music is well-written & executed. They just need to be focused on the difference between musical spice & sugar. To be taken seriously they need to lean with spice – leave the sugar to bands on CAT Country. They will gain far more traction if their authenticity (which they have) is heavier than their temptation to go pop-country commercial.
Highlights – “Cold Rain,” “My Baby,” “Patio,” “Painter,” “Quietly Heartbreaking”
The band – Montana’s Avery Ballotta (violin, banjo, vocals), Bedford, New Hampshire’s Max Capsistran (guitar, banjo, vocals, primary songwriter), Sasha Dubyk (upright bass/vocals) & featuring Emily Gervaise Moran (guitar), Anh Phung (flute), Micha Cowher (drums), Lars Thorson (lap steel), Dylan McCarthy (mandolin), Garrett Eaton (trumpet) & Dan Cardinal (keyboard).
A pleasant 4-panel color CD package with the band in a humorous pose has little to do with the title of the album. Maybe they should have called it “Under Powerlines.” Doesn’t matter. Good music does. And it’s plentiful here. Next time though, their music deserves a more rustic rural image, closer to the earth.
Color image courtesy of their Website. CD @ http://www.damntallbuildings.com/