From The Hills Below The City is the stunning debut album from the Indiana quartet Houndmouth. It's an album that mirrors the classic harmonies of the Band, the loose classic rock and roll of early 70's Rolling Stones and nostalgic whims of Americana. Over the years you hear about a lot of new bands who supposedly sound like The Band, well this album is the closest that I've heard to capturing the spirit of those early Band records. What stands this band apart are their harmonies, three really strong lead vocals that can then sit on top and fit together. This album doesn't re-invent the wheel but it just highlights the beautiful spirit of classic rock and roll and when you mix it with rockabilly and country music.
Houndmouth follow along a similar path followed by The Band and The Grateful Dead, stories that epitomise American storytelling, tales of hard luck, living on the wrong side of the law and that winding road that stretches from the north into the heartland of the delta. I'm On The Road has a catchy hook, sinewy guitar melodies and the entwined vocals of guitarist Matt Myers and keys player Kate Toupin. The song is a tale of having to take to the road, the listless life of a fugitive,
I had a job, I had a job
I had a job had to leave behind me
I had to move, I had to move
I had to move to another city.
Come on Illinois has a swirling organ melody that slowly builds in line with the vocal harmonies, Myers will inevitable draw comparisons with Robbie Robertson and there are some definite similarities. Myers appears to settle for the less is more style of playing, when warranted his solos are full of soul and he stretches those notes very much in the Robertson vein. Penitentiary is another song that sounds familiar, it has that old half time feel that the band employed. It's a wonderful slice of country soul, the story of a grifter headed down the path to the big house and seemingly enjoying the ride.
Playing stud in the evening
And solitaire at night
Leon has the cigarettes and Capone has got the light
Now I'm shifiting squares with a man from Arkansas
He took my rook and Oh Lord my King's about to fall
Casino (bad things) delves into the seamier side of the big city, it's a tale of having to do bad things to survive. Kate Toupin has a voice that has a sweet huskiness to it, she is someone you can imagine singing in a honky tonk as well as in a Sunday church choir. On Houston Train her voice has this resigned weariness to it with a very subtle country twang, the band have a very tight feel everything locks in, and then there are moments where they lift off and they reach for the heights and grab it every time.