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July 2014
Cadillac Flambe
"Old American Law
"
mp3

Some bands have the ability to create music that reaches into a chasm of sorrow and affliction, exposing the deepest of wounds. With its latest release Old American LawCadillac Flambe boasts nine heavily weighted tracks that escort the listener through calamitous musical compositions, and tragic tales told by the mesmerizing vocals of husband and wife Kris and Havilah Bruders.

 
Since its previous release, Eli’s Porch, Cadillac Flambe has had to adjust its sound. The band’s harmonica player James “Pappy” Garrett, who was an integral component to its dark Americana blues approach, died in a car accident during the making of the 2011 EP. Shrinking down to a four-piece, the band has shifted in a decidedly more rock ‘n roll direction, still retaining its rootsy nature but packing a more substantial punch.
 
Ushered in by Kris Bruders’ signature gritty blues guitar sound, “Shakin’ Baby” sets the album in motion, highlighted additionally by Michael Payne’s massive but calculated drum work and Dave Duly’s perfectly in-the-pocket bass playing. On this album, Payne and Duly add a collective rhythmic wallop unheard in previous recordings, pervading the tunes with a rock and R&B heartbeat.
 
After the first track, you’re likely in for the ride, which allows Cadillac Flambe to pull you in to its turbulent descent.
 
This emotional tailspin careens to its greatest depths in “3 Bullets,” the album’s longest and most powerful track—one split into two distinct acts. In Act I, Havilah Bruders tells the story of a desperate mother trying to feed her child, reaching out to the church, the government, and the bank, and is turned away by each. Act II arrives in the middle of the song, which slows from a steady 4/4 to a haunting 6/8 groove, as she discloses the news of her child’s death. A chilling anguish is felt as Bruders’ voice rages, a deliriousness is experienced as she transitions from a quiet whimper to a grief-stricken roar, also revealing the song's final crux: the woman has murdered the three entities that indirectly caused her child's death. Her soul and gospel background is most noticeable here, as she carries us through each scene and makes us feel her misery and despair, measure by measure. It’s also apparent in “Sweet Chariot,” where she takes us through a woman’s frenzied fear of impending death, into her answered prayers of serenity and light.
 
Most of the songs on Old American Law were penned by Kris Bruders, whose own vocals have a mystic, commanding, but sincere quality to them. Take “Father to Son” for instance, a narrative about a father’s beliefs and pressures onto his son. Bruders’ vocal delivery at once contains the father’s threatening tone and the son’s subsequent harsh, casual defiance. In the album’s title track, his voice characterizes the overall personality of the album. His words and the dusty Delta blues sound of his hollow-body custom magnesium guitar convey the voice of an uncompromising outlaw. Bruders’ authoritative, booming vocals—often coupled with his wife’s harmonies, sometimes impassioned, sometimes a simple adornment to his own—and the unique gravel of his guitar dig into the meat of each song.
 
Plenty of bands write songs about death, family strife, social issues, and religious conviction, yet few are able to execute it as effectively as Cadillac Flambe does in Old American Law. The throttle of the rhythm section, the bedraggled, melancholy guitar tones, the dissonant piano chords, and the soulful vocals push the message of each song to the forefront. The LP, which was tracked, mixed, and mastered at Little Class Records by Keegan Smith, is the strongest manifestation of anything the band has released to date. 
 
--Michelle Bacon

 

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Album review: Akkilles - Something You'd Say

Album review: Akkilles - Something You'd Say

 
(Photo by Mollie Hull, Seen Imagery)
 
As one who has been a self-professed music junkie for pretty much my entire life, I’m constantly in awe of those who go onstage, no matter how large the stage or the venue or the crowd, and make music. As one who doesn’t possess a lot of musical talent, the chances of me experiencing that feeling are pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the art in its various forms. When a solo artist writes music, and when it’s the kind of music that requires more than just the one musician to be performed live, does he/she worry about finding the right people to bring that music to life, or are the songs written because they simply have to be written, and there’s an intrinsic faith that they will eventually be heard as the author hears them? In the case of David Bennett, the man behind the loosely-knit group Akkilles, it seems to be mostly the latter.
 
When asked about the process involved in creating Akkilles’ first full-length album, Something You’d Say, Bennett speaks of having a clear vision to go with his musical voice, and he also was able to assemble a supporting cast of accomplished musicians that he respected and was fully comfortable with, even though they had never actually played together before. Additionally, the making of Something You’d Say involved having all five players in a recording studio (Nick Pick, Rachel Pollock, Jeff Larison, Isaac Anderson, and Mike Crawford, who also engineered the recording), as opposed to his first effort, Demo Treasures—recorded at Bennett’s home, and on which he was the sole musician and vocalist.
 
A bit about Demo Treasures: released in April of 2013, this five-track EP serves as a natural lead-in to the full-length recording. It contains a very Freelance Whales vibe at times, but there are instances when Bennett takes more risks with the music—as if he’s experimenting with his own potential, trying to test the boundaries of his work, perhaps seeing the bigger picture of the future ten-track album. It would be a wise investment to listen to this as a primer; it would also be a low-cost investment, as Akkilles is only asking for a couple bucks for the download on their Bandcamp page. (psst … there’s no rule against paying a little more, either. Any band worth supporting—not just Akkilles, but any and every band—is a band worth kicking in a buck a song for an EP purchase. Just sayin’.)
 
Listening to “Your Only One,” the opening track of Something You’d Say,put me in mind of being in a kicked-back state at the end of the work week, sitting on the beach, cold beverage in hand (make mine a cider, please), and watching the sun go down over the ocean. “She’s My Girl” offers nine-plus minutes of more gently trippy sounds, and the deeper you explore the album, the deeper your state of relaxation will be. Getting into the swirling psychedelia of the third track, “Country Boy Deluxe,” I started hearing a few more subtle resemblances and possible influences: a touch of yacht rock, maybe a little Minden, and (for me, anyway) the pensive reflection of Beck’s Sea Change album. Bennett masterfully tells his stories at their own pace, without the need of studio-born tricks or gimmicks to keep the listener’s attention. It’s also very clear that his band of musical hired guns is in complete lockstep with him, and the result is a seamlessly pure and effortless 51-minute mental massage.
 
Akkilles is not without its sneaky side, though: “Chic City” presents the listener with a relatively alt-country song as compared to the rest of Something. If the Flaming Lips had decided to bring Wilco into the recording studio … and, perhaps, maybe, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed a puff or two of some agricultural mood-enhancing materials, just speculating here … this might have been the result. It’s the closest to a “road song” that the album comes to—but it’s still a relaxed road even so.
 
Something You’d Say is more than the sum of its parts, as any worthwhile collaboration aspires to be. For those of us who look forward to summer every year only for the purpose of finding that special “summer song” or “summer album,” you can’t go wrong with making this your choice for 2013.
 
Of the roster of musicians that make up Akkilles, Bennett says this: “My current band is more of a collective than anything else. Everyone would be making music with or without me, but we all knew each other and they really wanted to be a part of what I was doing, and I love getting to work with such talented people. It's a pretty dynamic group.” If you have the opportunity to see this group as they support the new album, be ready to have your mind bathed in the serenity of gentle ambience and warm, finely-tuned summer pop.
 
At least, that’s something I’d say.
 


 
Join Akkilles with special guests Roo & The Howl (Colorado) and La Guerre at recordBar on Thursday, August 29. It’s an 18+ show, $7 cover. Facebook event page. 
--Michael Byars
 

Michael Byars has an infatuation with cider, which we all think comes from his internal Britishness, but he works cheap and spells most of his words correctly, so we let him hang around. And Michelle still likes to punch him every once in a while. Executive privilege and all that, jolly good, pip pip, cheerio.

 

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