Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Carry Illinois' Alabaster on CD

At first listen, Carry Illinois' new album Alabaster sounds like that of many an Austin-based band. Classifying themselves as indie folk-rock, this band starts with a polished and confident amalgam of Americana, Texas C&W and straightforward rock that would play well at The Continental Club on South Congress. The ten songs here are brief and succinct, in a poppy sort of way, resulting in the sort of album a band might release well into their career, long after they've stopped playing in roadhouses for cash that barely covers their pre-show bar tab.

Yet there's something deeper here, something that ushers the music down a stranger road. Singer/guitarist Lizzy Lehman has that same throaty and assertive tone that might remind you of a mix between Neko Case and Stevie Nicks, but it's coated with a slight patina of despair that suggests she's been down this strange road on many other occasions, and even though it's dark and you can't quite see ahead it's okay because you have a competent guide who may or may not care what's found at the end of the cul-de-sac. It's almost a tinge of goth, a Texan Siouxsie Sioux who's witched from absinthe to Shiner Bock.

Much of this distinct tone is created by the production. While most of this album was laid down at Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, there's that empty and reverberant and reminds you of a late night performance that started long after midnight because the opening acts couldn't get their shit together. While I felt like much of the lyrics here are a little on the safe side, a mixture of the literal and the love song cliche, they're delivered with conviction as if they've been lived instead of written down on a legal notepad. The rest of the band, which includes drummer Mathias Kunzli, bassist Benjamin Campbell and keyboardist Frank Locrasto, are solid enough to sound like old session musicians who know the right riff and right fill for any occasion.

This is yet another CD from a burgeoning new band that relies quite heavily on what has gone before, yet knows how to deliver it all in a compelling package.

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