In the country, that geographical region where beer is still sold at gas stations on a Sunday, there is a leisurely gait the residents adapt. It is one that enables you to take your time and still somehow manage to accomplish. To get ‘er done, as they say. Yet our backwoods march is a contradiction: It is slow movement, indeed, but it is efficient. It says that taking it easy is a way of life, as much a part of our bones as cheap canned American beer and fish fry’s. But it also says that you don’t need to rush to achieve and that sometimes, the fewest of words and actions gets the job done just good enough.
That country attitude is not all that different from Denver (the band’s) eponymous debut, the one we’ve been spinning on repeat for over a month now. It the best of country and the country. It is our gait and our attitude in musical form. It is home.
Denver, even in name alone, is a contradiction. The band is not bound to its namesake city but instead to Portland. It’s not composed of Willie and Waylon mockers but instead devotees. While shades of the bands it carries within it (Blitzen Trapper, to name just one) are most certainly evident, Denver is a wholly original endeavor. Though the music is perfection of the oldest variety once put forth by the likes of Waylon Jennings and Outlaws, it is newfangled country. That genre has sadly gone the way of pop, full of clichés and easily rhymed words (please see “honky tonk” and “badonkadonk”, Christ) but its roots are still firmly planted and Denver waters them just enough to make that tree grow with strong marrow that’s adverse to giving up or giving in.
It’s hard to say exactly what it is about this Denver album that has us completely enamored but head over heels we are. At heart, I am a song girl. I will fall in love with a collection of tracks if there is one song contained therein that swells my heart and takes over my head but with this record, I’ve come to understand the value of an album that seeks to tell a coherent story with songs that align and mesh. This is a heartfelt narrative and every song, a chapter. Heartbreak (I’m going home to the one I love / If she’ll let me walk though the door) and rejection (All those beautiful women / they don’t care for me at all) reign supreme but so does a musicality that betrays those afflictions. There is a hopeful banjo amidst “Hot Denver #1” and there is the staggering and completely unexpected voice of Birger Olson on “Keep Your Eye Out” that tells you in song “you might need some help”. There is an emotion too, in that tune, that relays that it’s okay if you do.
There have been plenty of albums that have tickled our fancy this year but slowly and so very surely, Denver’s release with Mama Bird Recording Co. is stealing our cold, sad heart and taking it on a mountain hike, with a rucksack stocked full of whiskey, finger picks, and rabbit pelts (get the album, get the reference, kids). None of it makes sense, how it is these things packed into an album could cure calamity as it does but this is a heart-full album. It is one that is imminently listenable, from note one to the slow fade out of “Rabbit Dancin'” and it is one we cannot recommend enough.
It is a poem for those who cannot stop howling at the moon, as Denver says, even though we know we very well should. It is a requiem for those souls getting by despite barely makin’ it.
Denver :: The Way It Is [mp3]
Denver :: Reno [mp3]