New sounds close to home
Roughly two seconds — OK, maybe three — into “Blood and Bone,’’ which opens the Molenes’ strong third album, you know exactly where singer-songwriter Dave Hunter’s heart lies: south of the Mason-Dixon. Which is saying something, as these hard-charging honky-tonk stylists are New England born and bred, from Maine to Massachusetts to New Hampshire. Never mind that they mostly call Portsmouth home.
As “Rockin’ Monophonic,’’ one of the disc’s best rave-ups attests, these are geographically universal songs about rootlessness and restlessness; about being “a long way from nowhere, lost in static on your FM dial.’’ Ah, if only such poetic nuisances still existed (a dicey digital stream just doesn’t have the same metaphorical allure, does it?).
With a clear-eyed, no-nonsense mix from Paul Q. Kolderie, who knows a thing or three about making Americana records (see: Uncle Tupelo), the Molenes’ sturdy, straightforward strengths are placed front and center, with room to roam under their big sky of blues, greens, and golden sunsets suffused with peals of pedal steel. It all starts with Hunter’s gritty, conversational tenor and resonant — and Resophonic — guitars (“Four Feet Under’’ is a Stones-meets-Son Volt gem). But make no mistake, the Molenes sound very much like an intuitively integrated band, not some solo rhinestone cowboy surrounded by hired hands. Bruce Derr’s expressive pedal steel wraps itself around the cool Western swing of “Hot Damn’’; and thanks to drummer Zach Field, “Love Me’’ carries a primal dose of Bo Diddley’s beat mixed with Guadalcanal Diary’s cowpunk hoodoo. Meanwhile, bassist Andrew Russell proves his point by gracefully gluing it all together without making a fuss.
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.