Outside of Ryan Adams and Robert Pollard, it’s rare for an artist to release two full albums in a year. When dealing with a label, albums are usually spread out to allow one release to run its course commercially before releasing another. Artists on the D.I.Y. tip have taken to technology to release loads of material at their whim, digitally or in cheap and easy formats, but it’s not too often that you see an independent act knock out two full-length albums, fully and professionally packaged and released in a physical format, within a 365-day span.
Local band The Cla-Zels will accomplish this rare feat Saturday when they officially release Flower of the Gold Rush, the group’s follow-up to In a Canyon, which came out in late March (making it really two albums in about nine months). The band celebrates the release of Flower this Saturday with a performance at Newport’s York Street Café. Shiny Old Soul opens the 9 p.m. concert and admission is $7.
Making The Cla-Zels’ double-scoop all the more impressive is the quality of both releases, as well as the very different approach to each. The band is led by singers/guitarists Joanie Whittaker and Jason Erickson, both excellent writers who proved their versatility on The Cla-Zels’ diverse debut album, I Own Hawaii. On Canyon, the songwriting duo stripped back, taking out the distorted guitars and the more “Pop/Rock” elements shown on Hawaii in favor of exploring their rootsier, Americana side. The songwriting duo showed a keen ability to bring their own personality into the realm of Country, Folk and Blues without sounding like musical tourists.
With Flower of the Gold Rush, The Cla-Zels turn the amps back up and conjure up a Rock set that, just as Canyon still had Rock elements, retains some of the rootsy vibe. Like I Own Hawaii, Flower of the Gold Rush has the mark of creative musicians dedicated to writing good songs, regardless of any genre expectations.
The band comes out of the gate strong with the Southern Rock riffage and punch of “Train to Alabama,” which makes for a great transition from the previous release. From there, The Cla-Zels glide gracefully between sensual, slow-burning Rock balladry (“You Go First”), soulful Modern Rock (“Nierika’s Eyes”), Classic Rock (“Jellybean,” which is reminiscent of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s work with Heart), jazzy Folk Rock (“Wood County”), Blues Funk (“Dear Candy”) and even Latin-tinged Pop/Rock (“The Paper”).
The Cla-Zels are adventurers with chops — even as they surf genres, Whittaker and Erickson’s vocals are consistently strong (and exceptional when they harmonize), Erickson’s guitar work is not only masterful but endlessly creative and the rhythm section (drummer Brian Baverman and bassist Chris Barlow) is studio-musician tight.
Now that they own Hawaii, spent some time in a canyon and have seen their flower of the gold rush bloom, it should be interesting to see where The Cla-Zels head next.
Here is the music video for the LP's title track.
More Local Notes
• Dayton Indie Rock crew Robthebank reunited last year and this Saturday the group hosts a local release celebration for its fantastic comeback album, Spoken Codes. The group split up not long after launching in the mid-’90s after Nate Farley became the full-time guitarist for Guided By Voices (frontwoman Heather Newkirk and experienced drummer Craig Nichols formed the amazing Shesus). Newkirk — who now lives in Cincinnati — has one of the best voices in regional Rock and she and the entire band sound remarkable on Codes, a call back to the period when Punk Rock and New Wave were still intermingling and emerging. Robthebank’s Cincinnati release party is a freebie Saturday at Over-the-Rhine’s The Drinkery. Cincinnati rockers Ohio Knife and Pure Predication also perform. You can download the album via label Rad Girlfriend here.
Here is a sample track from Spoken Codes, "End of Time."
• Saturday at The Redmoor in Mount Lookout, local music lovers will have their ears and eyes tended to with a special “Rock and Roll photography showcase” featuring live music from Black Owls and The Ready Stance. The photos exhibited — curated by photographer Chuck Madden — showcase various artists’ work in concert photography. Limited-edition prints of the photos will be on sale, with the proceeds (along with the $10 admission fee) going to Cincinnati’s Play It Forward organization, which helps local musicians in down times, when they are in need of financial and/or medical assistance. Doors open at 7 p.m.; music starts at 9 p.m. (pifcincy.org)
• Mark Utley of local Americana ensemble Magnolia Mountain is December’s “artist in residence” at The Crow’s Nest in Price Hill. Utley performs every Thursday this month, each night joined by some top-shelf guests. Thursday’s opener features Mike Oberst of The Tillers and Beth Harris and Billy Alletzhauser of The Hiders. On Dec. 13, David Rhodes Brown’s Kentucky Timbre and Kentucky Struts’ Todd Lipscomb join Utley, while Ed Cunningham of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and Amber Nash of Shiny and the Spoon are the guests Dec. 20 and Sassy Molasses’ Moriah Lawson and Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver join Utley and Renee Frye for the Dec. 27 showcase. All shows are free; music starts at 9:30 p.m. each night. (magnoliamountain.net)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org, @CityBeatMusic or on Facebook here.