The Obelisk Presents: Backwoods Payback & Cavern September Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on July 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cavern

backwoods payback

Easiest conversation I had last week went like this, “Hey man, we’re doing some shows with Cavern, you wanna present the tour?” “Yes. Duh.”

That’s not quite verbatim, but it’s enough to give you the gist anyhow, and when it’s Backwoods Payback doing the asking, the answer’s just about always going to be yes. Even if I hadn’t seen the Pennsylvania/Virginia three-piece last month at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here) and been so thoroughly blown away, they’re reliable the way people think of sunrise as being reliable, and I’m too busy indulging delusions of relevance any time they ask for anything to say no. “Well, if Backwoods think it’s cool, I must be on to something,” and so on.

But lo! There’s intrigue here too, as the Marylanders Cavern will be heading out in their newfangled trio incarnation, having welcomed bassist Rose Heater to the lineup with guitarist/synthesist Zach Harkins and drummer Stephen Schrock and, for the first time, turning not just from a two-piece to a three-piece, but from an instrumental to a vocal-topped outfit as well. In order to “demonstrate their style” — as Madball once put it — Cavern put up the post-rocky, prog-tinged single “Fade Before the Flood” in April. You can hear it streaming down at the bottom of this post. Indeed, it sounds like something I’d want to check out live.

And because any excuse to put it on and I’m happy, I’ve included Backwoods Payback‘s 2018 album, Future Slum (review here), as well. I know you’ve heard me say it a ton of times by now, but if you haven’t given that record its due, the time is now. Quick, before they put out another one!

Genuinely thrilled to be involved here in the small way I am. Go see these bands on this tour:

backwoods payback cavern tour dates

Cavern & Backwoods Payback Sept. Tour:
09/23 Cleveland OH Now That’s Class
09/24 Youngstown OH Westside Bowl
09/25 Erie PA Basement Transmissions
09/26 Buffalo NY Mohawk Place
09/27 Toronto ON Bovine Sex Club
09/28 Montreal QC Turbo Haus
09/29 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie

CAVERN:
Stephen Schrock- Drums
Zach Harkins- Guitar/Synth
Rose Heater- Bass/Vocals

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/cavernmd/
https://cavernmd.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Cavern, “Fade Before the Flood”

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Tags: , , , , ,

Backwoods Payback Post “Pirate Smile” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback logo

I’ll admit I have no experience trying to manifest psychic weaponry of any sort, let alone a knife. If I did, I think I might go with a type-two phaser set to heavy stun and just shoot myself with it so I could get a full night’s sleep. But that aside, the visual theme to coincide with Backwoods Payback‘s “Pirate Smile” makes sense when one thinks of, you know, someone smiling at you and then stabbing you. There’s a connection there. It’s psychic. You can’t see it. But it’s there.

Also pretty easy to imagine envisioning a knife as a decent mindset for playing a show.

The song itself has a vaguely socio-political stance in terms of its lyrics — resulting in, among other things, a fun punk rocker’s emphasis on the word “fucked” as it’s presented in all-caps below — and the West Chester, PA/Richmond, VA three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson bring a likeminded uptempo kick to the track that they always seem to nail. There’s plenty of it to be heard on last year’s Future Slum (review here) and there was plenty of it when I saw the band this past weekend at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here). They were a highlight of that festival, of course, as they’re a highlight pretty much of everything they do.

I don’t know if they’ve got more touring in the works this year or not — no, I didn’t ask; it’s not like I’m chasing bands around with a press card in my hat and mining for information; “Word on the street is you’re heading to Indy, can you confirm?” — but having so recently done so, I’ll reiterate that if you can see Backwoods Payback, do it. That’s pretty much all I have to say about it by now. I don’t care if you’re already a fan or not. If you can make it happen, make it happen.

Enjoy the video:

Backwoods Payback, “Pirate Smile” official video

From the 2018 Album, Future Slum

“The Initiates Guide to the Envisioning and the Initial Applications of the Knife”

www.backwoodspayback.com

a ship of sinking fools unaware of rising tides this population screwed standing in the bread or party lines in a word all they do is lie and they only work to waste all of our time in a way maybe I was blind now I’m old enough to open up my eyes you repeat the past mistakes I refuse to play in this charade a whole generation FUCKED cleaning up the messes that you’ve made in a word all you do is lie and you only work to waste all of my time ain’t no way no more I’ll be blind now I’m old enough to open up my eyes…what do you believe?

Shot by John Keefer & Chris Johnson
Edited by Chris Johnson
a 51DEEP Production

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

Backwoods Payback on Instagram

Backwoods Payback on Twitter

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

Tags: , , , ,

Backwoods Payback Touring in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

It will have been a couple months by the time Backwoods Payback hit the road again on their next DIY tour, this one headed west and south through a cut of the Midwest en route to SXSW in Austin, Texas, where they’ll play on March 14 before hitting Houston and leaving the Lone Star State behind with a couple more shows to wrap up. The Pennsylvania/Virginia (Pennsylginia?) three-piece will continue to support last year’s right-on-right-on Future Slum (review here), which put them ahead of the curve on any kind of grunge revival happening in the heavy underground while keeping to the punk root — and, clearly, work ethic — that’s been present in their sound all along.

To that end, don’t think the use of Raymond Pettibon art in their latest tour poster is a mistake or a coincidence, let alone the Black Flag-esque logo. They’re clearly aware of the kind of road-sloggery they’re doing, and while one doubts they’re eating dogfood — pretty sure convenience store burritos are cheaper anyway; plus they’re too friendly not to get fed — their commitment to “in the van” is admirable. Admirable enough you should get out and see them, anyhow. And maybe buy a t-shirt or an LP. You know, support and all that stuff that everyone hashtags nowadays.

Hashtag blessed, hashtag PR wire:

backwoods payback march tour

Backwoods Payback March Tour

Backwoods Payback
March 2019
SXSW TOUR

Heading back out and hitting the spots we have been missing.

Week never ends up right? Don’t let that dull your knife!

Backwoods Payback March 2019:
7- sprout music West Chester PA
8- now that’s class Cleveland OH
9- melody inn Indianapolis IN
10- livewire Chicago IL
11- the blue room Dubuque IA
12- bottleneck Lawrence KS
13- Witts end Dallas TX
14- spider house Austin TX
15- rudyards Houston TX
16- boom boom room Lafayette LA
17- growlers Memphis TN
18- highlands tap Louisville KY

Tour event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/386403138780580/

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Tags: , , , ,

Backwoods Payback Announce November/December Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

There are some really good shows on this tour. Boston. Brooklyn. Houston. New Orleans. Atlanta. And in between there aren’t many bummers to be found either, frankly. Backwoods Payback, whose recent live sets rank among some of the best I’ve seen domestically this year, head out once again supporting their 2018 album, Future Slum (review here), which, if you haven’t heard it, why not? They’ll do the Northeast and head south before cutting west into Texas, basically tying together a long weekender and a longer stretch as they do, en route to wrapping in North Carolina back on a northern swing. I could tell you to go see them and blah blah blah and all that kind of crap, but the bottom line is that the stream of Future Slum is embedded down there under the PR wire info for the tour, and you don’t check it out, it’s your loss. The rest of the blathering I’ll save for year-end list time.

Okay then:

backwoods payback tour

BACKWOODS PAYBACK ANNOUNCE TOUR

Sludgy grunge outfit Backwoods Payback are about to embark on a tour in support of their recent album Future Slum, sharing the stage with Doomstress, Royal Thunder, and many more on their way from the Northeast to Texas and back.

Says the band:
“Future Slum is here and it’s time to start spreading it across the land.

We are heading to some areas we haven’t toured in quite some time and a few bucket list destinations as well. The lineups for these shows are nuts. They form a pretty solid vision of where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.

This is just the beginning… Watch the trees, look past the tip of the knife… We will be running with the wolves.”

Order/Stream Future Slum here: https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/album/future-slum

Tour Dates
11/16 – Midway (Boston MA) w/ Set Fire, Cortez, Lord Fowl
11/17 – Brickhouse (Dover, NH) w/ Set Fire, Scrimmy the Dirtbag, The Humanoids
11/18 – St. Vitus (Brooklyn, NY) w/ River Cult, Eternal Black, Blackout
11/19 – Basement Transmissions (Erie, PA) w/ Fog Giant
11/25 – Banditos (Richmond, VA) w/ Book Of Wyrms
11/27 – Springwater (Nashville, TN) w/ Shadow Horse, Hogan’s Goat
11/28 – Dan Electros (Houston, TX) w/ Doomstress, Red Beard Wall, Mr. Plow
11/29 – The Mix (San Antonio, TX) w/ Red Beard Wall
11/30 – Lost Well (Austin, TX) w/ Red Beard Wall
12/1 – Santos (New Orleans, LA) w/ Suplecs, Choke
12/2 – The Earl (Atlanta, GA) w/ Order of the Owl, Royal Thunder
12/3 – Slims (Raleigh, NC) w/ Chaosmic

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Tags: , , , ,

Review & Video Premiere: Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback future slum

[Click play above to view the premiere of Backwoods Payback’s ‘Generals.’ Their new album, Future Slum, is out now.]

Future Slum could hardly sound more sincere if Backwoods Payback had cut themselves open and bled it out. And, listening to the melodic, post-grunge ending of “It Ain’t Right” — an Alice in Chains reference, maybe? — I’m not entirely sure they didn’t. There are raging moments as the album begins at a sprint in “Pirate Smile” and “Generals” seems to lay hands on the listener only to shove them out of its way, and the later “Alone” offers tonal thickness and grooving lumber of a more seasoned pace. This while “Lines” finds the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson locked into blood-boiling tension before skillfully cramming in one last chorus for the opening salvo that ends with the rolling “Whatever” bringing forth a hook that one might call “signature” before guest vocalist Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder hurls out a scream that reminds of the harsher edge Backwoods Payback stand ready to unleash at any given moment.

Rest assured, Cummings will answer soon enough in “Threes” at the end of side A as Larson gives his toms a torrential workover, and “Generals” wants nothing either in terms of aggro edge. To the notion of authenticity as a myth in terms of art or, really, anything — it’s a false standard at the very least — Future Slum is a challenge. It is so much the band’s own, and so much of it comes across as an arrival point in their ongoing growth, that in kind with the atmospheric spaces it covers in “Cinderella” and “Alone,” its punk, metal, grunge and heavy rock elements craft an identity that stands in the middle of a Venn diagram of genres while delivering a hard no to committing to any of them for more than the purposes of the single track being served. And as they make their way through the 10 songs/34 minutes of Future Slum, what ties their disparate ideas together — aside from Baker‘s basslines, which would probably be enough on their own — ends up being that flat-out refusal to play to style or be anything other than the band they’ve become.

This isn’t accidental, of course. Backwoods Payback have never been shy in terms of getting out and touring, and as they returned in trio form with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here) after a half-decade’s relative quiet — they had a 2012 live release (discussed here) and 2014’s In the Ditch EP (review here) filling that gap — following 2011’s Small Stone-delivered sophomore album, Momantha (review here), they maintained their commitment to pushing their sound forward on stage. Future Slum only benefits from this on a performance level, as CummingsBaker and Larson are tighter as a unit than they were even just two years ago, and one can hear it in the initial thrust of “Pirate Smile” as much as the dug-in emotionalism of the memorable “Big Enough,” a wistful highlight as much for its self-harmonizing as the instrumental build happening beneath, culminating in a wash and some quiet strum soon enough devoured by the opening riff of the penultimate “Alone.”

backwoods payback (Photo by Useless Rebel)

I used to call Backwoods Payback “dirt rock,” and there’s an aspect of that still applicable, but Future Slum makes easy tags a thing of the past, and as a fan, it’s all the more an exciting release for that. It’s been two full-lengths thus far, but since Cummings and Baker brought in Larson on drums, one can hear in the songs not that they’re playing against each other, but that all three members of the band are challenging each other to make the whole group stronger. And they do. Future Slum has three inclusions over four minutes long, and the band’s execution is accordingly teeth-grindingly tight, but as they continue to refine their processes and their delivery, their output makes it plain for anyone to hear that they’ve reached a new level in style and substance. Fortunately, in accord with this is a consistency of songwriting. Cummings‘ lyrics are spit poetry and the forward drive he, Baker and Larson are able to conjure amid dynamic turns of tempo and melody, is unmistakable. Fire Not Reason laid the foundation, and as a result of that, Future Slum is the strongest release they’ve ever had.

That’s true in terms of performance, craft and overall production sound, which remains thick where and when it needs to be while allowing the three-piece to still have a live feel and highlight nuances like the layered-in guitar effects in the second half of the opener or the timely shouts that punctuate the lines of “Generals.” Following the weighted nod of “Alone,” “Lucky” closes out as the longest cut at 4:57 and seems to find some middle ground in a Sabbathian central riff and steady initial pace, but true to form, it ups the tempo in a classically metallic turn — no less Sabbath, for that matter — that soon enough gives way to the slower chorus before landing in a chug that seems to disintegrate as it fades out, ending Future Slum with a bit of tension that one might even dare to think Backwoods Payback would answer with the start of their next album. Whether they do or don’t, and wherever they might go from here, the organic nature of their progression only makes Future Slum all the more of an accomplishment.

Some 11 years removed from their self-titled debut, they’ve risen to their own challenge and come together to create something special and truly theirs. It’s not dirt rock. It’s not stoner, or Southern rock, or doom or grunge or hardcore punk or whatever else. It’s Backwoods Payback. They’ve carved their sonic persona out of all of these things, and most of all, stayed true to themselves while embracing such a breadth of influence. In their faster and slower songs alike, one can hear the sense of immediacy, and it’s completely reasonable why. Backwoods Payback have been around, and they’re not dumb. This is a moment they’ve managed to capture, and there are parts of Future Slum that sound like they’re almost chasing after themselves before they get away. That’s not a negative at all. Rather, as it manifests here, it serves notice of the consciousness underlying their efforts, and they’re right. This is a watershed for them. Their urgency is nothing if not well placed.

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum (2018)

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

Backwoods Payback on Instagram

Backwoods Payback on Twitter

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

Tags: , , , ,

Backwoods Payback Announce Aug. 3 Release for Future Slum

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

backwoods payback

New Backwoods Payback arrives on a relatively quick turnaround. This is unmistakably good news, as it means all that, “We feel better as a band than we’ve ever felt” stuff wasn’t just riding a cool moment, but actually something that has fed into the creative process. Since founding duo Mike Cummings (guitar/vocals) and Jessica Baker (bass) joined up with Erik Larson (drums; ex-Alabama Thunderpussy, etc.), they’ve seem recharged. You could hear it on late-2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), and I’m not saying that I’ve already listened to it or anything, but their new one, Future Slum, is only a step forward from where they left off a year and a half ago.

For a bonus to the good news, they’ve got live shows coming up, including Maryland Doom Fest 2018, so dig the album art and posters below, then find more from the PR wire, a special quote Cummings sent over about the record, and a teaser clip.

All goes like this:

backwoods payback future slum

Backwoods Payback – Future Slum

Future Slum is not a pretty record. It’s not the clean and well-manicured one sitting awkwardly at a table in the local watering hole, it’s the grizzled one propping up the bar and regaling the crowd with conspiracy theories. Mike Cummings, guitarist and vocalist of Backwoods Payback – the ones responsible for this lumbering hulk of stoner rock n’ roll – certainly fits the bill, whether he’s yowling his head off or singing in an eerily hypnotic manner. Meanwhile, Jessica Baker is the reliable anchor on bass, and Erik Larson (he of Alabama Thunderpussy and the legendary hardcore band Avail, no less) gives a thumping performance on his kit. A friend pops her head round the door too – Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder trades words in her usual melodious tones on the apathetic ‘Whatever’, yet also pulling out a surprising rasp.

Backwoods Payback are also able to spin a good yarn about their travels – sharing stages with Fu Manchu, Scissorfight and Third Eye Blind, a bewildering list when put side-by-side, but each represents an important factor in this band’s aesthetic. Fu Manchu demonstrate the “gloryfucked fuzz”, as Backwoods Payback so eloquently put it; Scissorfight showcase the no-holds-barred burly brawling such as on “Generals”; Third Eye Blind for the occasional moments of calm (!) like in “Big Enough”, giving brief respite from the warning shots being fired throughout the rest of the records.

Five albums in, Future Slum is the fruit of a hard slog for fifteen years. Understandably, they are excited for it to see the light of day, not least for its cryptic subject matter. “It all revolves around the idea of feeling lost and disenfranchised with your surroundings, finding your people, and losing yourself within them. Have you ever followed?” Mike finishes, quoting from second track “Lines”. It’s up to you if you can read between them.

Mike Cummings on Future Slum:

We went into the studio (back to Noisy Little Critter, where we have done everything since “in the ditch”) immediately following our Jan tour with Royal Thunder and laid down the record. We had been working on the songs for the few months leading up to that tour and it came together very fast. This definitely feels like the next step in the evolution of the band since Erik joined. The three piece thing has really streamlined the writing process and kind of taken us to a whole new place. I’m not quite sure where we fit into the landscape anymore, but we are making ourselves at home in this little valley we are carving out. We are stoked to be hitting the road again and getting back on the horse. See you out there with some new jams, some new gear, some new ideas, and our old hearts.

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, Future Slum teaser

Tags: , , , ,

Backwoods Payback Announce January Tour Supporting Royal Thunder

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they continue to support late-2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), Pennsylvania-based trio Backwoods Payback will hit the road for 11 shows alongside Royal Thunder this coming January. Most of the gigs are in the Southeast, but the tour starts out in Philly and hits Brooklyn before dipping back down the Eastern Seaboard to hit Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and so on, and in addition to Royal Thunder and Backwoods Payback, the first four nights of the stint are set to feature Heavy Temple as well, which only bolsters the bill as far as I’m concerned.

I was lucky enough to see guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson perform earlier this year at Roadburn 2017 (review here) as part of their European tour with New Hampshire riffwreckers Scissorfight, and of the many times I’ve been fortunate to see them play, I can’t recall one where they sounded so completely on-all-cylinders. The material on Fire Not Reason is a joy of heavy rock combined with raw hardcore, metal and other elements, and their presentation has never been so tight. Am I telling you outright it’s worth showing up to see them play? Yes, yes I am.

They announced the tour thusly:

royal thunder backwoods payback poster

Greetings from the other side of Halloween!

Lots about to be happening in the Backwoods Payback camp. We are hitting the road this coming Jan 2018 for a run of shows supporting ROYAL THUNDER! Heavy Temple will be jamming the first four shows with us as well.

1/18 – Philadelphia PA, Kung Fu Necktie
1/19 – Brooklyn NY, St Vitus
1/20 – Lancaster PA, Lizard Lounge
1/21 – Richmond VA, Strange Matter
1/22 – Charlotte NC, The Milestone
1/23 – Johnston City TN, The Hideaway
1/24 – Nashville TN, The End
1/25 – Jackson MS, CS’S
1/27 – Birmingham AL, The Nick
1/28 – Atlanta GA, The Earl
1/29 – Raleigh NC, Slims (just Backwoods Payback)

We were also just announced as a part of the Maryland Doom Fest taking place June 22/23/24 2018 in Frederick MD alongside some old friends in The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Lightning Born, Caustic Casanova and a TON more!

Some cool stuff should be hitting the digital shelves before the end of the year too…keep your eyes peeled

See you on the road,

bp

BACKWOODS PAYBACK:
Jessica Baker – Bass
Mike Cummings – Guitar/vocals
Erik Larson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/backwoodspayback/
https://backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com/

Backwoods Payback, “You Don’t Move” official video

Tags: , , , ,

Backwoods Payback, Fire Not Reason: Evening Odds (Plus Video Premiere)

Posted in Reviews on December 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

backwoods-payback-fire-not-reason

[Click play above to check out the premiere of Backwoods Payback’s video for ‘You Don’t Move,’ directed by 51 Deep. The band’s new album, Fire Not Reason, is out tomorrow, Dec. 2.]

From the opening strains of its leadoff track, it’s clear Pennsylvania’s Backwoods Payback have made the choice the title of their third album presents: Fire Not Reason. With a screaming beginning, post-hardcore lead work in the guitar and an underpinning of heavy riffing that somehow ties it together, “Elephants” stomps out more of a genre span in its quickly executed three minutes than some bands do in their career, yet like much of what follows on the self-released outing, it wastes nothing.

It’s been five years since Backwoods Payback released their second album, Momantha (review here), and while they’ve released a 2012 live outing (discussed here) and the 2014 In the Ditch EP (review here) in the interim, the nine-song/30-minute Fire Not Reason hits with all the intensity of the passing half-decade, forming its crux around a brutal honesty of emotion and songcraft that’s neither apologetic nor ironic in the slightest. For founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings and bassist Jessica Baker, it is a realization of the human core that has always gone unnamed as the central appeal of the band: here metal, here punk, here grunge, here heavy rock, but most of all itself in a way that strikes as wholly without pretense. Intimidatingly without pretense.

Not that it’s in-your-face in some cliché metal dudeliness or aggro fashion. Certainly there are aggressive moments, as on “Elephants” or the black ‘n’ roll midsection of “Dirge” (video premiere here), which elsewhere provides one of the album’s landmark hooks — and if you told me second cut “You Don’t Move” was written with the intent of being a pro wrestling theme, I’d believe it — but throughout, Backwoods Payback keep emotional rawness so central to their mission that it comes to be the defining facet of their approach. Fire Not Reason finds further distinction in Cummings and Baker having added drummer Erik Larson to the fold. Known for handling guitar and/or vocals to one degree or another in outfits like Alabama ThunderpussyThe Might CouldHail!HornetBirds of Prey and so on, in addition to his solo work, Larson also drummed in Richmond, Virginia-based punkers Avail, and so is no stranger to the stylistic turns that Backwoods Payback make within these songs.

backwoods-payback-photos-by-james-jay-fortin

Rather, he’s right at home in this trio incarnation of the band, and does much to bolster both the start-stop chugging of “You Don’t Move” and the more languid rollout of the later “That Dream Again.” While “Elephants” launches Fire Not Reason at an all-go, all-in melding of styles and drive, songs like “Don’t Try” and the somewhat faster centerpiece “Tuxedo” seem more like signature Backwoods Payback, as much as their sound permits anything to be. Informed by grunge and heavy and Southern rock, they make something that acknowledges all of them and isn’t necessarily shooting to emulate — perhaps less here than ever — but even when “Tuxedo” breaks at its halfway point to build back up to its full-thrust finish, they’re very much in their element if not necessarily their “comfort zone” in the sense of coming across lazy or haphazard in their approach.

Cummings, who has a couple solo acoustic releases to his credit at this point, takes center position for “Even Odds,” which transitions directly from “Tuxedo” before it and provides a sub-three-minute breather that also gives a side-B-style expansion to the sonic palette with which the album as a whole works. It is a long way from “Elephants” or even the slick groove of “Dirge” earlier, and it changes the context of the opening strums of the subsequent “That Dream Again,” which soon enough opens a heavy blues roll with a spaciousness that calls to mind a more on-the-beat All Them Witches in its first half before solidifying around a more forward motion and, as it nears its finish, a lumbering stomp made all the more palpable by Larson‘s crash. The penultimate “Snakes” is more immediately about swing, but its thickened fuzz moves smoothly into and through an upbeat hook before dropping out to give the drums a short standalone section where they’re soon joined by lead guitar and Baker‘s bass, which feels more tonally present in the last stretch perhaps because of the distinction of its kicking in on its own as the final piece to make Backwoods Payback‘s push complete.

It does that, and like much before it, “Snakes” ends efficiently and cleanly, with no frills or veering from its central intent, stopping short to let the nodding “California Lean” close out with one more three-minute affirmation of the truth in songwriting that’s been at the root of Fire Not Reason all along. It might fit in that same category as “Don’t Try” and “Tuxedo” in terms of how its nestles into Backwoods Payback‘s bottom-line aesthetic, as opposed to the branching out in cuts like “Elephants,” “Dirge,” “Even Odds” or even “You Don’t Move,” but “California Lean” also underscores the urgency with which the trio have brought this material to life, and as much as Cummings‘ vocals — willfully strained at times — or his or Baker‘s tones, or Larson‘s drums, or the general rawness of it, it’s that urgency tying Fire Not Reason together. Half a decade later, this is clearly a story the band needed to tell.

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

51 Deep website

Tags: , , , ,