The Whybirds “Cold Blue Sky” (Little Red Records, 2010)
Whybirds fly the flag for Americana
The first point in the Whybirds favour is that they are one of one of only a handful if bands that have ever reminded me of the underrated Chuck Cleaver whether with the Ass Ponys or the similarly under-appreciated Wussy.
The opening ‘Glow’ starts slowly, a spark before it fully arrives with the chorus which hits home with the friendly force of a released 100lb Labrador that’s been locked in the kitchen all day. The instinctive grasp of dynamics is evidenced by the contrast between the clipped verses and the longer notes of the chorus; the huge guitar sound helps too.
Having four songsmiths in the band means that they’re never going to sound too homogenous, Dave Banks follows Taff Thatcher’s opener with a slice of good old Uncle Tupelo (in Jeff Tweedy mode) with ‘I Feel Loved’. Luke Tuscherer’s voice is better and he stakes out territory in the Son Volt camp with his ‘Morning Light’ delivered by the Drive By Truckers. Finally Ben Haswell offers ‘Isabel’ which cuts backs on the crashing guitars and adds some sweet harmonies, it strays nearer to power pop, somewhere near where the Velvet Crush met Gene Clark. At no point would you think that you were in good old Bedford (it’s quite near Luton).
So that out of the way, it is clear that they are going to stir up memories of totemic alt-country and Americana figures, those plaid clad pioneers who made anything in this genre seem possible, maybe even before it had coalesced into a genre. They sound like all of those Glitterhouse compilation CD’s melted down to form a band, a kind of shape-shifting terminator of Americana. The Whybirds emphasise the traditional guitars, Folktronica, Glo-fi and other more recent hybrids are ignored, these songs exist within narrow parameters, there’s Neil Young, Replacements, Whiskeytown and those previously mentioned. It is No Depression alright, it is boilerplate Americana, it seems superfluous to describe it further as most of you will already know exactly what this sounds like.
The strength of the record is the way that they ably put all their influences together into a cohesive whole, even with four different perspectives. The songs are all strong, the guitars burn and twist and just when you think it needs something different along comes ‘I Just Want to See Your Face’ or the title track to deliver up something gentler, more reflective. There are no real surprises, this record isn’t about boundaries, it is about unpretentious alt-country and it is going to make an awful lot of people very happy.
Date review added: Friday, March 05, 2010
Reviewer: David Cowling
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