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Wednesday, July 16

Album Review: Hook & Anchor - Self Titled debut - July 22nd, 2014

Hook & Anchor  
Hook & Anchor  
Jealous Butcher/Woodphone Records
July 22nd, 2014                                            
Hook & Anchor formed as somewhat of a happy accident. Kati Claborn, of Blind Pilot, had some extra tunes piling up just as she ran into long-time friend Erik Clampitt, who happened to be looking for some new material and musicians to play with. The result of this reuniting finds Claborn on banjo and guitar, Clampitt on electric guitar and pedal steel, Gabrielle Macrae (The Macrae Sisters) on fiddle, banjo and guitar, and Blind Pilot members Luke Ydstie on bass and piano and Ryan Dobrowski on drums. The combination of such talented multi-instrumentalists, lead singers and harmony singers has spawned a self-titled debut album that reaches back in time to an era where country music and rock & roll could still be spoken in the same sentence without wincing, an era led by The Byrds and continued by The Eagles. Between exquisite vocal harmonies, passionate lyrics and songs spanning the entire palate of human emotions, Hook & Anchor makes for a great listen for any mood. Based in Portland, Oregon and recorded at Jealous Butcher Records and Woodphone Records, the album is set for release on July 22, 2014. “Famously Easy” kicks off the album with a catchy tune featuring passionate, dynamic vocals and melodic pedal steel guitar. “Wild Wind” starts off with a teasing banjo intro, which leads into an uplifting, going off on an adventure kind of feel, as if climbing a mountain or driving off across the country. And that’s exactly what the song is about. The violin picks out bluegrass-style lines in between verses, while the acoustic guitar strumming shadows the lyrics. “Concerning Spectral Pinching” begins deceptively slow. Rock & Roll electric guitar kicks in an upbeat, country western-style verse. The chorus is much more lighthearted, although the lyrics seem to bring up some rather dark themes. Finally, the soulful vocals in the bridge seem to croon to the listener. The fiddle-led “Light Of The Moon” has kind of an airy timbre and a softly jovial and celebratory feel. “No, It’s Not” produces strong waves like dark, powerful swells of emotion. Starting with primarily just vocals, the instrumentation gradually builds and just as it peaks, it ebbs back down for another verse, before another swell rocks the boat, and then drops even further down; one last build brings the tune to a climactic close. While the first half of the album concentrates on the crossover between country and rock & roll, the next few songs are closer to the country side. “Hammer” is entirely piano and vocals, but with Clampitt as the lead singer instead of Claborn. While he has a good voice for country music, it is just not my style and sounds a bit whiny to me. “Tomorrow Night” is another vocal tune, slow and folky. “Hard Times” presents another bit of deception. While, the name of the tune is “Hard Times,” the lyrics sing “Hard times comin’ and it won't be long til the summer comes,” as if to suggest a theme of hope on top of the lighthearted instrumentation. “Hazel Dell” follows with a slow, drawn out, piano-based track. “Blackbird” picks up the pace again with a groovy country-rock tune. The electric guitar and bass are strategically subtle, while the keys slowly become more and more prominent throughout the song. “Fine Old Times” takes a step back again with a slow, acoustic guitar-backed vocal track. The vocals really open up toward the end of the tune. “Rock Salt and Nails” is a digital only bonus track. It is primarily vocal, but the instruments kick in about half way through to add a pungent aroma to the already flavorful vocals and end the tune on a solid note. Overall, the album is solid. The primary strengths of the project are the outstanding songwriting and instrumentation and Claborn’s passionate, Stevie Nicks-meets-Joni Mitchell voice. However, Claborn tends to pull back from her vocals a bit too early, making some of the lyrics sound jumbled and hard to hear. As I said above, though, the songs span every emotion I can think of, and these emotions shine through the songs and cut deep into the listener, which is exactly what music is supposed to do.  
Words: Randy Harris
2.5 outta 5 GlowSticks
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