With 2009’s The Mountain, Erika Wennerstrom and Heartless Bastards transformed themselves from a great garage-stained Indie Blues outfit to a world class Rock band. The contemplative nuances of The Mountain were largely a product of Wennerstrom’s break-up with former Bastards bassist Mike Lamping, but her evolution continued with her move to Austin from Cincinnati--- and a revamped lineup that features Ohio musicians bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin (they were Wennerstrom’s back-up on the first Bastards demos).
Expanding to a road quartet with the addition of guitarist Mark Nathan broadened the Bastards’ live sound, Wennerstrom eventually bestowed official Bastardhood on Nathan, a move that also strengthened the Bastards in the studio, as evidenced by their just-released fourth album, Arrow.
The subtlety and diversity of The Mountain are enhanced by the Bastards’ return to an adrenalized Rock stomp on Arrow, as the gentle opening croon of “Marathon” gives way to the Dan Auerbach-channels-the-Stones swing of “Parted Ways,” the T.Rex/Ziggy Stardust Glam slam of “Got to Have Rock and Roll” and the paisley buzzsaw of “Simple Feeling.” Arrow shows the continued rounding and maturation of Heartless Bastards, as Wennerstrom’s songwriting comes into even sharper focus and the band more clearly explores the intersection of its influences and its own singular sonic identity.
Every time Heartless Bastards hit the stage, it’s a raw and thrilling experience, but — given the power of Arrow — the band’s Madison Theater gig promises to be even more viscerally exciting than their frenetic 2009 MidPoint Music Festival appearance in Cincy.
HEARTLESS BASTARDS play Friday, Feb. 17 at the Madison Theater with guests HACIENDA. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.