Walter Tunis: Houndmouth rides in from Louisville

Contributing Music WriterApril 25, 2013 

Houndmouth is a Louisville band with rustic roots.

TYLER ZOLLER

  • THE WEEK THAT WAS

    The Engines at Mecca: Having spent the better portion of two hours exploring levels of jazz dynamics that shifted from cool, melodic balladry to blasts of free improvisation, the Chicago collective known as The Engines turned to that most lamentably unlikely of inspirations, the neighborhood taqueria. During the finale of El Norte, penned by trombonist Jeb Bishop, the quartet compressed its bounteous instrumental drive, improvisational dexterity and pure performance intuition into a remarkably streamlined musical travelogue.

    No sooner did an intro of animated Mexicali-flavored bop establish itself at this Outside the Spotlight performance than the band swerved into swing. Then El Norte switched gears again to allow drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Kent Kessler to cook up a light but pronounced groove under a musically acrobatic solo from Bishop. The entire escapade was rich, melodically spacious and, well, taco-rific.

    Some tunes, like Four Feet of Slush, emphasized hushed ensemble cool. Others, including the show-opening suite of two Bishop works, Tilt and Spark, were full tour de forces that incorporated groove, drone-like backdrops, an encyclopedia of percussive exploits from Daisy and a beautifully emotive bass solo from Kessler that served as the true eye of this musical hurricane.

    There were also instances where the music pared itself down into free-style solos ripe with wicked humor. Daisy took top honors in that department early into the second set with a restless solo that had him grabbing various percussive devices out of a suitcase for use in creating assorted scrapes and scratches across his drum heads.

    The catalyst for all this fun was saxophonist Dave Rempis, who engaged in several cat-and-mouse bouts with Bishop that built to wondrous boils during Stafe. But there was one instance during a brief unaccompanied solo that Rempis seemed to sum up the continually morphing music of The Engines. After establishing a resoundingly clear tone on alto sax, his sound quickly corroded into a coarse squall.

    Such a moment was indicative of a jazz vehicle that loved the flow and pace of keen rhythm but wasn't for an instant shy about changing lanes into something more dangerous when the need kicked in.

Houndmouth

10 p.m. April 27 at Cosmic Charlie's. 388 Woodland Ave. $10. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.

It's not exclusively a Louisville export. The lineup of Americana garage rockers Houndmouth reached across the Ohio River to neighboring New Albany, Ind., for a member or two. But with the Kentucky Derby a mere week away, all things are relative. Houndmouth can rightly be called a Louisville band.

That's doubly true when you consider the quartet will preface its performance Saturday at Cosmic Charlie's with a major headlining/homecoming outing Friday at Louisville's Iroquois Amphitheatre.

With a debut album dubiously titled From the Hills Below the City due out in June on the longstanding indie label Rough Trade, the songs of Houndmouth — keyboardist/vocalist Katie Toupin, guitarist/vocalist Matt Myers, bassist/vocalist Zak Appleby and drummer/vocalist Shane Cody — have a modestly rustic roots-music air. Not surprisingly, the band cites The Band (as in Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and company) as a prime influence.

But the mood is more gray and less settled on songs like Penitentiary and On the Road. The timelessness indeed suggests The Band. But the core of Houndmouth's sound steers more to Dave Alvin-era X and perhaps some of the less twangy exploits of such great alt-country blueprint bands as The Long Ryders.

Sure, Louisville may serve as the official Houndmouth hometown this week. But those hills below the city where the band's songs emanate from represent an altogether different landscape and mind-set.

Gov't Mule

7:30 April 27 at the Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St in Cincinnati. $30. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

If you are really looking to distance yourself from Saturday's sold-out Taylor Swift concert, try a road trip to Cincinnati's Taft Theatre to witness guitar great Warren Haynes in action with his longstanding jam band troupe Gov't Mule.

Haynes remains one of the busiest axemen in the business. While touring with Gov't Mule will encompass much of his year (including an extended run of summer shows in Europe), he also participated in the Allman Brothers Band's annual performance residency at New York's Beacon Theatre in March. Haynes will also be featured in several orchestral tribute concerts to Jerry Garcia, including a June teaming with the Boston Pops.

There are no new Gov't Mule recordings to promote with all this roadwork, but the band did release a stunning archival package last fall. Titled The Georgia Bootleg Box, the six-disc set featured three complete 1996 concerts given by the original trio version of the band (Haynes, longstanding drummer Matt Abts and bassist Allen Woody, who died in 2000). The package is worth the purchase just for the scorching cover of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid.

The Revivalists will open the Saturday performance.

'WoodSongs' homecoming

One of the most distinctive sounds to surface during the early years of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour belonged to Ben Sollee. The program introduced the Lexington/Louisville cellist to a national audience.

In recent years, Sollee has been a tireless touring performer, a high-profile collaborator (he has worked with such Kentucky favorites as My Morning Jacket and Daniel Martin Moore) and a prolific recording artist. But he returns to his former performance home for the April 29 taping of WoodSongs at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street. Sollee will be showcasing music from his recent album Half Made Man.

Australian guitarist and songsmith Kim Churchill, currently in the midst of a North American tour with Billy Bragg, is also on Monday's bill. (6:45 p.m. $10. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.)

Mitchell and Bragg team up for a full show of their own at the Southgate House Revival, 111 East Sixth Street in Newport on April 30. (8 p.m. $25. (859) 431-2201. Southgatehouse.com.)


THE WEEK THAT WAS

The Engines at Mecca: Having spent the better portion of two hours exploring levels of jazz dynamics that shifted from cool, melodic balladry to blasts of free improvisation, the Chicago collective known as The Engines turned to that most lamentably unlikely of inspirations, the neighborhood taqueria. During the finale of El Norte, penned by trombonist Jeb Bishop, the quartet compressed its bounteous instrumental drive, improvisational dexterity and pure performance intuition into a remarkably streamlined musical travelogue.

No sooner did an intro of animated Mexicali-flavored bop establish itself at this Outside the Spotlight performance than the band swerved into swing. Then El Norte switched gears again to allow drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Kent Kessler to cook up a light but pronounced groove under a musically acrobatic solo from Bishop. The entire escapade was rich, melodically spacious and, well, taco-rific.

Some tunes, like Four Feet of Slush, emphasized hushed ensemble cool. Others, including the show-opening suite of two Bishop works, Tilt and Spark, were full tour de forces that incorporated groove, drone-like backdrops, an encyclopedia of percussive exploits from Daisy and a beautifully emotive bass solo from Kessler that served as the true eye of this musical hurricane.

There were also instances where the music pared itself down into free-style solos ripe with wicked humor. Daisy took top honors in that department early into the second set with a restless solo that had him grabbing various percussive devices out of a suitcase for use in creating assorted scrapes and scratches across his drum heads.

The catalyst for all this fun was saxophonist Dave Rempis, who engaged in several cat-and-mouse bouts with Bishop that built to wondrous boils during Stafe. But there was one instance during a brief unaccompanied solo that Rempis seemed to sum up the continually morphing music of The Engines. After establishing a resoundingly clear tone on alto sax, his sound quickly corroded into a coarse squall.

Such a moment was indicative of a jazz vehicle that loved the flow and pace of keen rhythm but wasn't for an instant shy about changing lanes into something more dangerous when the need kicked in.

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