Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Great Unknowns, 2005

I see a lot of established performers and a few on their way down, so seeing this aptly named band, as I did when it opened for Indigo Girls at the 9:30 Club, was a real treat.

From Dirty Linen #121 (Dec. 2005/Jan. 2006)

The Great Unknowns

Presenting the
Great Unknowns

Daemon DAM19046 (2004)

Unknowns”? Pretty much, although these children of the swampy side of the American South did a lot to change that when they toured with labelmates Indigo Girls in 2005. But it’s “Great” that’s the operative word here. Becky Warren has one of those born-for-alt-country voices: big and meaty, with a vulnerable little vibrato here and there. She also pens evocative songs that keep to the “universal” side of the usual roots tropes. Take “Round Hill,” which combines three standard themes — the love-hate relationship with small towns, the lure of the road, and the soldier’s story — without allowing any of them to become clich├ęs. Even Pierce Woodward’s banjo sounds fresh. “Something to Do” is the sort of lonely-woman-scorned lament, set to a rock beat, that some folks think Lucinda Williams invented. “Forever” combines a resolute rhythm with an accordion that snakes in and out like a wayward emotion. And I love the interplay of 50s-sounding electric guitar and 60s-sounding organ on the torchy “Don’t Come Home.” It took the intervention of established musicians like Rose Polenzani (who sings harmony on “Presenting”) and the Indigos to give this group of refugees from defunct bands — besides Warren, the Unknowns are drummer Andy Eggers, bassist Altay Guvench, and guitarist Michael Palmer — a hand up to the footlights, a move that makes the buddy system seem like one of the best things the music biz has going for it these days.

Pamela Murray Winters
(Churchton, MD)

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