BAYLEN’S BRIT PICK: LONESOME SHACK
By Baylen Leonard
Artist: Lonesome Shack
Hometown: London via Seattle
Latest Album: Desert Dreams (March 1)
Sounds Like: The Black Keys, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Rayland Baxter
Why You Should Listen: Lonesome Shack moved to London from rainy Seattle, so you imagine they feel right at home with the British weather. Desert Dreams, their third album, is the kind of music that promises to warm you up from the inside out: the perfect thing to listen to when Storm Erik is battering at your door and the UK papers are predicting a snowbomb. If you like a bit of blues–of the hill country or desert variety–-mixed with some backwoods boogie and a dash of psychedelia, then Desert Dreams is for you. (Check out the BGS premiere of the title track at the end of the story.)
Ben Todd (the fingerpicking frontman of the trio) was clearly dreaming of warmer climes when he wrote these songs last winter. Perhaps he was thinking back to the early 2000s, when he spent four years living in a shack he’d built himself in the Gila wilderness in New Mexico. It was there he taught himself to play blues tunes from old recordings while living off the land. In the years since he’s honed his unique sound with the help of drummer (and graphic designer) Kristian Garrard and bassist Luke Bergman.
It should be said that, while honouring the past, this record sounds as bright as a new penny. That about sums up the feel of this recording: planted in yesteryear but cultivated firmly in the now. I for one will have it on standby to see me through the inevitable four months of winter we still have to come, before the London sunshine shows up for about a week. The album doesn’t drop until the 1st of March – but I can’t see springtime reaching us before then.
Speaking about the title track, Ben Todd says, “I wrote this album in sequence and ‘Desert Dreams’ was the last song I wrote. I see it as a postscript to the album, with a different feel, a dreamy lightheartedness. In the studio we had never played this song before as a band and after we ran through it a few times we recorded this live, first take. It tells the story of a dream sequence that touches on fears of ‘desertification’ that you hear about in the Southwest US where fertile land becomes useless after human impact plays its course, but in this case it’s an imagined city that fills up with sand. I worked at an adobe brick manufacturer in New Mexico and most of my job entailed shoveling sand and clay proportionately into a cement mixer to be poured into brick forms. Memories of this show up in the song: ‘I dreamed I was digging clay’ and ‘It takes sand and clay to begin to build the city up again.’ The chorus is an adapted quote from the book The Quick and the Dead by the great southwestern writer Joy Williams.”
Photo credit: Holly Birtles