Bear Grass is a four-piece pop act from Troy, NY. That is a suburb of Albany, the capital of that state. If you look at the history of the band preserved on their BandCamp page, this is their third album. However, the previous two were released in 2013 and 2011, respectively.
Why was the band quiet for 5 years? I did some digging on their website, and it looks like there were a bunch of lineup changes. It looks like vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Katie Hammon is the only original left in the band. Huh.
Hammon is clearly the centerpiece of the act. She has a rich female voice, calling to mind Neko Case, Laura Viers, Laura Stephenson, or Erin Fein. Hammon knows what she is doing and has written some nice folkish pop tunes to go around her voice. And the band she has put together complement her nicely.
But i really want to talk about the production here, mostly because i have had a lot of promos lately that have terrible production/recording. According to the BandCamp page for the record, "The album was recorded and mixed by Hunter Davidsohn of Business District Recording in Johnson City, NY, and mastered by Josh Bonati of Bonati Mastering NYC." Kudos to Davidsohn and Bonati. Hammon's voice is clear and noticeable, but does not totally overpower the music. It is balanced, and i like the way the layering works.
The record starts off with Winter Caps, which bounces along nicely, Hammon almost singing country here. It's a nice, medium tempo song to start things off.
Hammon cuts loose on Unawake, which is a lovely swinging tune. Drummer Ian White taps happily while Tommy Krebs adds a lovely tinkling keyboard part as Hammon's guitar grinds. Her voice soars here. This is my favorite on the record, a great pop tune.
Krebs adds a steady organ drone to Shadow On The Wall over the steady beat of White and bassist August Sagehorn. I like the way the organ provides a counterpoint to her voice and guitarwork, and the clicking beat that White adds.
The next song, I Began, is kind of a ballad. Hammon's voice is stretched thin over tapped drums and faint guitar. This is not their best work.
But things pick back up on Clock In The Corner. This song has an odd ticking guitar part, but the rhythm really soars. The whole band are just swinging away. Lovely.
Grown starts off folkish, with Hammon picking a faint guitar motif and stretching her voice thin. But after a while, the band comes in with a nice thunking rhythm and she lets her pipes do their work. I think that she is better suited to belting it out, rather than kind of whispering her words or speaking lightly. Your mileage may vary of course, but i like it when Hammon just lets loose vocally.
And she does that on Red Berries, really wailing away. Again, the song starts off faint with one layer of picked guitar, one layer trilling, and clear vocals almost spoken. This grows into a nice climax.
On Wash Over Me, bassist August Sagehorn steps up with a reggae-like riff, as the song kind of grinds along. Hammon really lets loose here, her voice all over the place singing a nice happy melody to go along with the happy bouncing rhythm. This is good stuff.
Snake In The Grass is a nice pop tune which delicately with a bass rumble, Hammon's voice is fragile and gaspy, while the drums are tapped and the guitar all over the place. This is another fun song, Hammon letting go on the chorus and bellowing.
And finally the record ends with Sail Out. This starts as a tickling folk song, the guitar picked and the drums tapped slowly. It builds nicely, but never really gets loud.
Overall i find this to be an enjoyable record. Bear Grass are not reinventing the wheel, but they make a nice pop tune. I wonder how this record compares to the earlier releases?