This month saw a double album release from Portland’s Redwood Son, a self-described ‘West Coast Americana’ band. New Beautiful Day and Summer of ’77 are, admittedly, somewhat minimal and lyrically simplistic, but isn’t that kind of the point? Filled with songs of love, loss and redemption, Redwood Son’s albums are highly personal and filled with small moments of striking emotion.
Opening with “Long Fall,” Beautiful New Day is the sadder of the two pieces. It’s an album I feel like I would turn to after a particularly difficult breakup. “Long Fall” seems like a bittersweet story song about failure and hardship. Still, the whistling in the song adds an element of hope for moving forward.
Other songs that stood out for me on New Beautiful Day were “Believe Me,” with its lovely female vocal accompaniment and its bluesy sound, and “Throw Away,” which is the quintessential breakup song.
The last track on New Beautiful Day pushes the sadness aside with a hopeful and comforting air. “Little Bed of Music” has a funky sound to it, which is refreshing after so much despair. Perhaps it’s closure in more than one way.
New Beautiful Day is what it is: Solid Americana with hints of blues and rock thrown in. It’s obviously a very personal record for lead singer Josh Malm. The album, which has been five years in the making, is clearly a labor of love for Malm. While I wanted more from some of the songs lyrically, I was able to connect with and relate to the ideas in New Beautiful Day. Redwood Son seems like a band that is struggling to find their identity, and I look forward to their progression. All in all, New Beautiful Day is a solid effort from a promising Portland band. We should be so lucky to call them ours.
Summer of ’77 is like the split personality of New Beautiful Day. Where NBD is sad, Summer of ’77 is angry, or joyous. The second album is poppier than the first, with more attitude and more rock elements.
I loved “Taken For Granted.” It’s angry without being irate and intense without going over the top. I appreciated Malm’s delivery of the lyrics, in a singing/rapping style. This element helped set the mood of the song, and I felt like I saw more personality from the band. I also loved the ‘oohhhss’ and the thrashing guitar solo. This song helped me see the versatility that Redwood Son is capable of.
I also liked “We Must Change.” Malm’s voice is buttery smooth in this track, and I was pleased by the addition of the piano in the song. Redwood Son excels at adding little details that go a long way to create more than just songs. The details help bring out the story of the songs by setting the mood and surprising the listener.
Another favorite on Summer of ’77 was “Check Out Hotel.” It had a decidedly lounge sound to it, with more attitude and personality than some of the other tracks. I also like the steel guitar and piano accompaniments.
Perhaps the most surprising track of all was “Heaven’s Hell.” Accordion and piano accompany Malm’s strong vocals in a devilish and dark track. It’s splendid.
Redwood Son is a band that doesn’t depend on production flairs and frills to carry them- instead they depend on their talent. I appreciate a band that is not afraid to do that. It’s obvious that Redwood Son is doing something right- they were voted Best New Artist in the 2011 Portland Music Awards. The coverage of Redwood Son doesn’t end here! Keep an eye out for interviews and live reviews with Redwood Son! You can get the albums on CDBaby. You can see Redwood Son on June 23rd at The Gemini Bar and Grill in Lake Oswego. The Show starts at 9 pm and it’s free!
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