Gravel Road – Capitol Hill Country Blues

Gravel Road
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by Sean Jewell ::

Gravel Road‘s forthcoming album may not be out until later this summer, but it’s burning up our record player right now. Affectionately named after both the hill country style of blues they play, and the neighborhood in Seattle they’re from,

Capitol Hill Country Blues is a statement about a rapidly growing city that is sometimes too big for it’s britches, and sometimes just right for the party Gravel Road brings. They tell us:

“The album title reflects the change and instability not only in our government seated on Capitol Hill but also in our own community of Capitol Hill in Seattle.  Gravel Road has had a rehearsal space at Crybaby in the heart of Capitol Hill for 10 years now and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of change.  Rather than lamenting the demise of many of our favorite music clubs and hang out spots we’re embracing the change and realize that things must Keep On Movin’.  The title track is a celebration of the change and the resilience that can come out of the situtaion.”

And resilient they are. They tour their frequently when not honing their chops here in town. They released albums with T-Model Ford. They’ve been fixtures for festivals and toured all over Europe. With blues like Gravel Road pushes, though, the location isn’t as important as the message: “tell the people waitin in town / light it up / we gonna burn it down”

The range of blues they bring is also impressive. Shortly into the album the pace slows and the vocals shift. “Come And Gone” laments hard work and bad luck, and days filled with only lost time. In true Gravel Road fashion, the instrumental work is so mesmerizing you may not recognize it as a conventional blues song. It’s a happy (or atleast a drinkin) song about sad things.

Gravel Road blues is big beat music, a deceptively Southwestern sound made right here in the Northwest, a fiercely pioneering outpost where we quarrel with money like some crazy lover, and make our last civilized goodbyes before heading into isolated Northern frontiers. “Backyard” and “Rather Be Lonesome” are roadhouse ready boogie down jams that put a dip in the hip and a shimmy in the shoulder. CHCB simmers on the drone of the rhthym section until the album reaches a boiling point. By the time you get to “One More Dollar” the lid’s done blown off the damn pressure cooker, the ceiling splattered in hot shit, but you could give a damn because you’re struttin your ass off in the living room high on the heat of cracklin electric riffs. “Rabbit Run” might be the finest blues Gravel Road ever done played.  The nearly six minute long epic turns a simple phrase into a psychedelic blues journey with methodical electric guitar riffs, solos, and foot stomping drums.

As they’re wont to, Gravel Road puts blues riffs on the elastic of time and not only stretches backwards, but forward into new ground, like on the intensely weird “Song The Darkness”. A futuristic blues muffled in fuzzy ribbon mic vocals, wandering, dreamy guitars, and that thudding, droning, back line. This is northwestern music: comfort sounds that you can wrap yourself in like the familiar grey skies; made by folks who huddle into studios slightly bigger than hallways outside the rain and grind out filthy albums to scare away the gloom. “Green Lungs” is completely weeded out with a krautrock inspired trip that speeds up and agitates the blues. The album comes to rest on slide guitar and finger-picked “I Feel High”. As you should. Gravel Road hits the road this fall playing a bevy of dates and they’re in rare form, rugged, gristly, and bluesy as hell.

Capitol Hill Country Blues is out later this fall. Get it. The album was engineered and mixed by Jack Endino and mastered by Rick Fisher at RFI.  It will be released on vinyl, cd, cassette and digital around the beginning of September 2016.  A European tour will start in the UK around September 21st and from there will head to Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Slovakia, and Czech Republic.