Click to hear: “Drug of Choice”
So a group of musicians from Portland’s indie-rock, slowcore and doom scenes get together to make an album of… pensive alt-country songs? As the kids text these days, WTF?
The answer is Jeremy Alexander, the talented singer-songwriter behind the project known as An Evening With. Alexander enlisted a bunch of great local players to back him on Lovers & Losers, including core members Aaron Hautala (of the recently disbanded Satellite Lot), Peet Chamberlain (of the recently disbanded Cult Maze) and Jason Ingalls (of The Baltic Sea and the possibly disbanded Seekonk). Zach Howard of Conifer, Dave Noyes of Rustic Overtones (and Seekonk), and ukulele songstress Dilly Dilly (a.k.a. Erin Davidson, formerly of Cerberus Shoal) are among the “supporting characters” on board.
Alexander’s penned 11 smoky, beery numbers about loneliness and longing. The music’s rooted in country and honky tonk (brushed drums, strummed acoustic guitar, barroom piano, harmonica), but frequently embellished with elements of rock and pop, with some good ol’ fashioned weirdness thrown in (dig Dilly Dilly’s saw solo on “Tumbleweeds” and the bees buzzing on “Last of the Great Smokers”).
“Drug of Choice” is a choice example of this mix of genres blending beautifully: half country, half alt-rock, with a glorious back end full of chiming and chugging guitars and elegiac keys. “Crawlin From Your Skin” satisfies for similar reasons. It progresses from an alt-country rocker into a spacey, almost Phishy section that stretches the tune well past the seven-minute mark.
Alexander’s not a particularly strong singer, but his delivery is honest, plainspoken, like his lyrics. “I’ll sit on by and stare at the phone / reassures me that I’m all alone / and all out of smokes, go to the store / and if I go, you’ll call for sure,” he sings on “Grayhound,” the opening track.
There are a few dull moments, but also many elegant melodies on this album, made all the finer by lush backing vocals and tasteful instrumentation. Throw this one on at 4 a.m., after the after-party, and be sure you’ve got at least half a pack left.
— Chris Busby
An Evening With plays a CD release show on Fri., Aug. 8, with Josh Loring and Elf Princess Gets a Harley, at Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Call for cover (21+). 879-8988. myspace.com/aneveningwith.