Those aware of Portland’s Blind Pilot will know they feature singer Kati Claborn, for whom Hook & Anchor would appear to be a side project. Joined by fellow Pilots Luke Ydstie, and Ryan Dobrowski, and teamed with pedal steel maestro Erik Clampitt and old time fiddle stylist Gabrielle Macrae, of the Macrae Sisters, the band sail close to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac borders on their eponymous debut, albeit with considerable greater use of pedal steel. The comparison strikes from chugging album opener, Famously Easy, a song which kicks off with the line “she was famously easy”, Claborn channeling Stevie Nicks with a slightly deeper timbre while the clawhammer banjo and fiddle driven Wild Wind sees Ydstie provide the Lindsey Buckingham counterpart. Even the guitar tumbles in the same manner.
Switching to an old school country fiddle intro for Concerning Spectral Pinching, what initially announces itself as a Tennessee Waltz soundalike suddenly switches to express-train driving blues-streaked urgent country before Light Of The Moon heads to the backwoods cabin for a good ole’ fiddle-backed dosey doe mountain folk that takes Buffalo Girls as its template, its buoyancy in distinct contrast to the musically moody, gathering power of No, It’s Not with its steady drum beat, sonorous piano and bluesy organ work.
Although the folk gospel trad-hymnal styled piano ballad Hammer, Clampitt on lead with the band providing four part harmonies, provides a departure from the path, the opening numbers pretty much delineate the album’s two primary modes, although, save for the bluesy slurry of Blackbird, it’s the latter that dominates the second half.
This gets under way with gently jogging acoustic number Tomorrow Night, a celebration of drunken pleasures as she sings “we may pass out on these sheets again tomorrow night” prior to Macrea stepping up to the microphone for the simple acoustic, lap steel laced Hard Times. To be honest, the nigh six minute ballad Hazel Dell is a bit of a funeral march plod, but it’s the only quibble here and the quality of the vocals remains high.
The album closes up shop on the simple acoustic notes of the emotionally open Fine Old Times, unless, that is, you opt for the digital version, in which case you get the bonus of reading of Steve Young’s Rock, Salt and Nails that begins with just voice and acoustic guitar before, around the two and half minute mark, there’s a blast of organ and the number builds to a full band climax and wearied, spent fade.
The bands success rather depends on how committed all concerned are to it rather than their other, more established outfits and careers, and what sort of windows they have to put in the gigging hours needed, but, whether it’s the start of a new life or remains a one-off venture, all concerned – purchasers included – ought to feel well satisfied with the results.
Review by: Mike Davies
Released on Jealous Butcher/Woodphone Records, out now
Download via Amazon