When I asked Chris Daltry just where exactly his acclaimed quintet the 'mericans had been hiding out in '09, the founding father of the rootsy rockers, as well as the acclaimed mid-'90s indie outfit Purple Ivy Shadows, was quick to deflect to any insinuation that the Providence group had been slacking.
VISIONARY Daltry (second from left) and the 'mericans.
"Well, I wouldn't exactly say we've been hiding anywhere this year, but we have intentionally booked fewer shows so that we can focus on writing new material, and we'll begin recording the week of Easter," Daltry clarified while discussing the 'mericans show this weekend at AS220 supporting Maryland's Cotton Jones (in town behind their excellent new disc, Paranoid Cocoon). It will be the first appearance for the 'mericans since a January gig with Barn Burning and friends the Figgs (whose bassist Pete Donnelly worked the boards on 'Merican Recordings and 2007's Where All Dead Leaves Go). Daltry performed a string of solo acoustic shows down the East Coast to iron out some of the new material, including stops in Philly and his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Daltry's southern-fried roots shine across Where All Dead Leaves Go, warm with tremolo, hooks, and harmonies akin to retro gems from bands like Galaxie 500, who Purple Ivy Shadows covered on a 2004 tribute album, as well as Boston's Buffalo Tom, who will join the 'mericans, Thom Yorke, J Mascis, and others on an upcoming tribute to Miracle Legion's Mark Mulcahy. And look for the 'mericans to kick out a cover of the Purple Ivy classic "Pawtucket" (streaming now at myspace.com/themericans) on a string of Rhody dates, ranging from an opening slot for Route .44 at the Blackstone in early April, to providing the sounds for the next beer fest in May, to an unplugged gig at the South Side Community Plant Sale, to their first performance at the Block Island Music Festival in June — all of which speaks volumes to the band's accessible sound. And Daltry guarantees they'll debut material in the live setting, culminating in a new release by year's end.
"Our upcoming gigs are really varied, which is something that I've come to learn is important, trying different things that will not only put us in front of different audiences but also be fun for us, and I hope they keep coming," he said.
Daltry's open-door policy of notable friends joining the fray (e.g. Joel Thibodeau of Sub Pop's Death Vessel sang on the 'mericans' debut) has evolved into a five-piece unit, having culled the rhythm section of the Cold War, while lead guitarist Mike Moore remains the longest tenured 'merican.
"After over 11 years together, Purple Ivy Shadows had become dysfunctional because it somehow wound up being a complete democracy, one where it was almost impossible to agree on anything," Daltry said. "And the 'mericans can't follow that route because it's a band I created to satisfy my own musical vision. I've always kept the door open to friends who want to be a part of it for as long as they wish, as long as it remains fun and inspiring to them."
Ben Pilgrim, who will share the bill at AS220, has been long-inspired by Daltry's jams, dating back to his high school days. "When I was growing up in Seekonk, I was always intrigued that there was a 'music scene' close by in Providence, and the first time I saw Purple Ivy Shadows I just felt like they had the map, that they had it all figured out, and I still feel that way with the 'mericans. They're one of those bands I will always learn from and I'm always honored to play with them," Pilgrim said via email.
And who better than Mr. Daltry to express his sentiment on the local music community?
"The local music scene is what the bands make of it. I have never stopped trying to do my part here since I first moved to Providence in 1993. The scene has changed, and maybe there have been some dry spells, but you always have to adapt. These days, with local bands like Low Anthem and Deer Tick getting national attention, it should help bring some better touring acts to our town. It somehow makes us all feel like we are part of something bigger, something really exciting."
COTTON JONES + THE 'MERICANS + BEN PILGRIM & THE FREE UNION BAND | AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence | Friday, March 27 @ 9 pm | $7