Eugene Weekly : Music : 6.10.10

Travel to (Hey) Marseilles

Modest Mouse and the Decemberists are setting the mold for the Northwest indie rock sound these days, and Seattle’s Hey Marseilles falls in line with the latter. Formed in 2008 as a trio, Hey Marseilles’ lineup soon expanded to seven members including a pair of classically trained brothers on cello and viola. The septet quickly garnered numerous accolades and awards in the Seattle area.

 Classical music, folk songs, sea shanties and traditional storytelling inform Hey Marseilles’ songwriting as much as rock and pop do, with mostly acoustic arrangements that feature such diverse instrumentation as strings, mandolin and accordion. And like the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Hey Marseilles’ vocalist Matt Bishop sings in an earnest, plaintive tenor of terraces, harbors, sails, seasons and faraway places. 

The romantic theme of travel runs throughout Hey Marseilles’ latest release, the appropriately titled To Travels and Trunks (due out June 29). To Travels and Trunks evokes wanderlust both lyrically and through world music inspired arrangements that make the album a sort of Rough Guide to a post-college backpacking trip through Europe. Waltz beats mix with Dixieland, and the album’s first single, “Rio,” features Brazilian-inspired percussion. In addition, accordion, organ and trumpet provide an eastern European flavor throughout the album, reminiscent of indie rock’s greatest world music carpetbagger, Zach Condon of Beirut. 

Hey Marseilles and Loch Lomond play at 8 pm Friday, June 11, at Cozmic Pizza. $8. — William Kennedy

A Whopner County State of Mind

Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace (thanks to Hank III for that lyric) is a place called Whopner County. Someplace where your floorboards are worn into polished ruts from generations of stockinged feet. Where there’s a creek bank in the shade awaitin’ after a day in the fields. Where everyone at the neighborhood bar saves a stool for you. Where there’s no heartbreak that free-flowing whiskey can’t fix. 

Up ’til now, there’ve been only two ways to get to Whopner County: the two releases by Eugene’s Whopner County Country Allstars, 2009’s It’s Too Loud and 2007’s Always A Pleasure. Now, a third road leads to the mythical place: 7-10 Split. The new album from Ken Howe (drums), J.P. Scofield (bass, vocals), Matt Alpert (lead guitar), Sara Scofield (vocals, kazoo, tambourine) and Gregg Vollstedt (lap steel, guitar) is more of the same. Both Sara Scofield and Vollstedt sing on most songs, and their duets and harmonies are country gold. 

Vollstedt’s lap steel adds a vintage touch to songs packed with puns that sound straight out of the 1970s, such as on “The Whiskey Wins Again”: “Baby likes a shot of whiskey in the morning but not he’s got to settle for my loving / When he gets the shakes my poor heart aches / He ain’t got a drink; we’ve got each other.” There’s a little bit of pain in each song, but also an awful lot of leaning on each other to get through, just like real life. So wherever you live or wherever you’re from, you can always be in a Whopner County state of mind. Whopner County Country Allstars celebrate the release of 7-10 Split at 3 pm Saturday, June 12, at The World Cafe. Free. — Vanessa Salvia

Blues on Caffeine

Good news for Hillstomp fans: The boys are back, with a new album that still has that old-time blues feel but adds a crisper, more upbeat sound. Darker the Night is their fourth full-length album since Portland’s Henry Kammerer (vocalist/guitarist) and John Johnson (drummer/percussionist) started jamming together in 2001. 

Using instruments that include vintage mics, buckets, cans and BBQ lids, Kammerer and Johnson developed a signature hypnotic blues sound. This new album adds some goodies to the mix, such as a baying hound, banjos and several elite Portland musicians. Many songs are less about putting listeners into a blues-induced trance and more about creating toe-tapping, head-bobbing beats. The melodies are chock full of original works, recycled blues bits and frantic finger-picking. You can just picture the duo sitting on a couple of upturned buckets, homemade instruments in hand, playing like mad. The title track is a perfect example of this — an old blues sound with a faster, more purposeful tempo. There are quieter songs as well, like “Up Here,” which mixes softer vocal with a bluesy swing-like beat. 

The narratives woven throughout these songs are just what you’d expect: swearing off drinking or swearing off women. But in some cases, the vocals are distorted enough to be almost impossible to hear, such as in songs like “Cardiac Arrest in D” where the melody clearly overrides the vocals. The songs are carried not by the narratives but by the repetitive melodies. 

Throughout, the album conveys a sort of joy that makes it easy to forget about which techniques and narratives Hillstomp uses to create their sound and just absorb the music. Hillstomp celebrates the release of Darker the Night with Sassparilla and Ruins of Ooah at 9 pm Saturday, June 12 at the WOW Hall. $10.  — Catherine Foss

Return of the Son of Frank

Dweezil Zappa wants to be Frank with us. Or rather, Dweezil wants to bring Frank to us. Since the original Tour de Frank in 2006, scion Dweezil Zappa has been on a mission to keep his father Frank’s music alive. In each of the last five years, Dweezil has brought together a stunningly precise band with a different slice of Frank’s music to our ears. Past tours have featured players from Frank’s own classic ’70s and ’80s band arsenals: Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ray White and more. There are no “old guard” members present in this year’s incarnation — but regardless of which musicians surround Dweezil’s guitar mastery, the fact remains that the genius, adventurous spirit birthed in Frank’s songs is still alive.

 Last November, Dweezil Zappa and his band of musical misfits were scheduled to bring the tour to Eugene, but their bus got snowed in at Lake Tahoe before they could make it out. They’re on the way back to us on their current jaunt promoting the forthcoming Return of The Son of… (out June 22), a double-live release primarily pulled from 2008’s three-night stand in Chicago. Seven months late, but worth the wait, Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa at 8 pm Saturday, June 12, at the McDonald Theatre. $29.50-$49.50, $75 VIP tix. — Dan Temmesfeld

Musical Medicine

Both veterans of Thomas Mapfumo’s great Blacks Unlimited band, the members of upbeat Portland duo Pachi Pamwe use the traditional instruments of the Shona people (Eric Miller on mbira, kalimba) and guitar (Matt Gordon) to create original, contemporary, danceable “Afro-coustic” or “Zimbabwamerican” songs. Miller and Gordon sing the lyrics in English, Shona and Ndebele, offering an American perspective, so you don’t have to be a world music purist to enjoy this concert, which celebrates the release of their loping, laid back new album, Salt of the Earth. As they sing on one of the tracks, “Gambia,” “music is a powerful medicine,” and the effervescent music of Zimbabwe is some of the planet’s most beautiful, even filtered through American voices and musicians who’ve also worked with jam band types like John Fishman and String Cheese incidentals. The smooth, bubbly vibe of Pache Pamwe provides a welcoming bridge between Zimbabwean folk and American pop. Pachi Pamwe plays at 8 pm Saturday, June 12, at Cozmic Pizza. $5-$10. — Brett Campbell



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