Hook & Anchor – “Hook & Anchor”
The running joke among the members of Portland, Oregon’s Hook & Anchor is that they’ve played more live shows together then they have had rehearsals. If that is the case, then what they’ve accomplished with their self-titled debut album released this past July via Jealous Butcher and Woodphone Records is all the more remarkable. The band’s members had been involved in various Northwest based projects for years with Kati Claborn, Luke Ydstie, and Ryan Dobrowski working in the band Blind Pilot, while Gabrielle Macrae was working with The Macrae Sisters, and Erik Clampitt played with Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck, Power of County. They came together this past year when Erik Clampitt contacted Kati Claborn about throwing a group together to do a series of shows in San Francisco culminating with a gig at the San Francisco Old Time and Bluegrass Festival. Kati agreed, dusted off some songs she’d been sitting on, and gathered her two band mates for the journey. Turned out she wasn’t the only one to bring some songs, and as the band got together and the songs were learned, it became clear to the members that this was the group of musicians these songs had been waiting for to breathe life into them. Theirs is an Americana folk rock sound that wants to reach the very roots of history of the backwoods, and back roads that get you there.
The album opens with the drum beat and baseline of “Famously Easy,” soon joined by the vocals, and then a steel pedal guitar roaming the ground between the three. The song never slows down or speeds up, but remains steady throughout as it takes the listener on its journey; it sets the tone for the songs to follow. “Concerning Spectral Pinching” opens with a lament laden fiddle, and vocals that push the song into an ode to Patsy Cline before the band kicks in for a rollicking run over a shuffle beat and dancing bass line, as the twang of the guitar and fiddle trade off each other throughout the song. The song concludes with a group harmonization that reveals the band’s singing chops. “Light of the Moon” opens with a washboard, joined again by that country fiddle, and sounds as though it’s a song that’s been handed down through the generations of being played at county fairs and barnyard dances over the past 150 years, as the bands invites you to come “and dance by the light of the moon.” “Hammer,” sees the band exploring their gospel side as the band harmonizes over a simple piano melody; it’s as stripped down as a song can get, but the lyrics and vocals solidify the track. “Blackbird,” sees the band again working over a simple, but steady and interesting drumbeat and a walking bass line, the sound is filled in with smooth guitar parts that find their place in the song and that lovely violin which makes another appearance. As with all of their song, in “Blackbird,” it’s the vocals that give it wings as they are sultry, and help the song maintain its “cool” attitude.
Hook & Anchor, the debut album by the band of the same name is a fun and interesting journey into Americana folk rock roots music. The band has managed to put together songs that harken to yesteryear, yet maintain a modern spin on the sound. The instrumentation and the vocals are spot on throughout, and manage to create a laid back album that has a bit of kick to it.
WORDKRAPHT Rating: 4 Stars
Album Name: Hook & Anchor
Date Released: July, 2014
Genre: Americana, folk, folk rock
Location: Portland, OR
Band Members: Kati Claborn (banjo, guitar), Erik Clampitt (electric guitar, pedal steel), Gabrielle Macrae (fiddle, banjo, guitar), Luke Ydstie (bass, piano), and Ryan Dobrowski (drums)
Record Label: Jealous Butcher and Wood Phone Records