Wesley Allen Hartley and The Traveling Trees
Narrow Gauge Quad Trains
Burst & Bloom
Click to hear: “Slow Shards”
Former Dead End Armory singer/guitarist Wesley Allen Hartley is leading a new group of desperados these days. The Traveling Trees are an acoustic combo that plays old-time country with hints of indie-pop.
Hartley’s high-lazy Texan twang can’t miss. Whether you care to hear him in this unplugged, non-rockin’ group after the electric and stormy Dead End Armory is the question. The answer, for the most part, is yes. Yes you do.
Hartley’s brought ex-Armory bassist Leslie Deane back to the campfire, and she lends fine backing vocals to several tracks, joined from time to time by drummer Jon Donnell and bass player Derek Reynolds. Ron Harrity (of Honey Clouds and Peapod Recordings fame) recorded most of Narrow Gauge Quad Trains at his new studio in South Portland, but there’s no evidence anyone did any producing or mastering.
That laidback approach generally suits the proceedings, but there are times when richer backing vocals or another instrument (say, a piano, or some beat-up organ) would easily bring the material up a notch.
The looser, acoustic version of “Jet Fighters” (an early Armory tune) included here was worth the second take. Hartley sounds like a cowboy Syd Barrett on the great “Slow Shards.” “Outside” is a drunken, Dylanesque sing-along, and “Shot N Shots” is one pretty chord change away from knocking off Johnny Cash.
Tear-in-your-Geary’s numbers like “Label Peel,” “Show Me Around” and “Acreless” are perfect for post-last-call reflection, but “Throwing a Duck” just wallows. “Acreless” didn’t warrant the even less-produced take tacked on at the end.
It’s good to hear Hartley anytime. Should he decide to rock again and get weird, I suppose I wouldn’t mind that, either.
— Chris Busby
Wesley Allen Hartley and The Traveling Trees play the Factory Portland project’s launch event on Fri., July 23, at SPACE Gallery (538 Congress St., Portland) with Jose Ayerve, The Red F, The No. 9, Bullyclub, and others, at 8:30 p.m. Tix: $6 (18+). 828-5200. space538.org.