Gospel From The Bottom Of A Deep, Dark Well
By Skwerl, July 6th, 2009
When I first discovered The Builders And The Butchers, I described them thusly: “Let’s say Bob Dylan and Grace Slick had a child. Who was then raised by Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. Who then picked a band off a street corner in Mexico. In 1929. Well, they would probably sound something like The Builders And The Butchers.”
There’s a line in their bio, describing the band’s migration from street corners into clubs and theaters, that begins to illustrate the chemistry and unique energy the band possesses:
At the early shows it was hard to distinguish the band from the audience, nothing was mic’d or amplified, and seemingly everyone in the audience had a shaker, washboard, or were just beating on the wall and singing. All in attendance saw something special happening…
We had missed the boat on their self-titled debut, but had the pleasure of interviewing frontman Ryan Sollee around this time last year. Since then, not only have we name-dropped the band countless times, but so has other amazing Portland bands, such as Portugal. The Man. After checking in with Portugal last week, we decided to see what The Builders & The Butchers were up to, and were pleasantly surprised to find a brand spanking new album waiting for our eight bucks, Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well. Come on publicists, you’re supposed to make sure we don’t miss these things!
As one could reasonably expect, the band’s sophomore effort is a more mature and elaborate work than their debut, with more harmonies, more instruments, and more layers, despite being recorded in a short five days. The able Chris Funk, aka Crutchy McGee of The Decemberists produced both albums.
The wider variety of sounds often translate to more pronounced contrasts; the loud parts are full, and hit hard, while the quiet parts seem that much more quiet in comparison. On a whole, Salvation is slightly less folk than the band’s debut, and more rock and roll… If you can imagine what rock and roll would have sounded like had it existed at the turn of last century.
Most of Salvation’s outstanding tracks feature obvious examples of this dynamic, including Devil Town, Vampire Lake, Down In This Hole, In The Branches, and my current personal favorite, Hands Like Roots.
In addition to soulful lyrics that were at times devilishly haunting, one thing that made the the band’s first album so interesting was the jug band harmonies and a sort of Mexi-Americana texture provided by mandolin and horns. On Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well, not only is this texturing more prevalent, but it’s used to a greater advantage, often becoming the star of a song, such as in the aptly named Barcelona, and in the second half of Raise Up Your Weary Hands.
The Builders And The Butchers are just one of several bands that have us wondering if any scene in the country is producing music of such consistent quality as Portland, Oregon. We’ll be catching them on Spaceland in LA on the 17th, perhaps with the video crew. If you like what you hear, stay tuned for more.
Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well
June 16th, 2009
01. Golden And Green
02. Devil Town
03. Short Way Home
05. Hands Like Roots
06. Down In This Hole
07. Raise Up Your Weary Hands
08. Vampire Lake
09. The Wind Has Come
10. In The Branches
11. The World Is A Top