Knitting Factory Presents
The Yawpers, A Shadow of Jaguar, Ruby Bones
The Yawpers’ third album Boy in a Well is a sensational tragedy set in World War I France about a mother abandoning her unwanted newborn child. But, like the band itself, there’s so much more roiling beneath the surface
Recorded in Chicago by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge, The Cactus Blossoms) at Reliable Recordings with production assistance and instrumental contributions from Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Bash & Pop), Boy in a Well stretches The Yawpers’ sound and ambition in challenging, impassioned, and dynamic directions. To follow up their 2015 Bloodshot debut American Man — which Rolling Stone described as mixing “high-brow smarts with down-home stomp” — the trio left the comfort zone of their Denver hometown in September 2016 to record in a city they’d only briefly visited before.
The story-vision was initially conjured by lead singer Nate Cook, after a reckless combination of alcohol, half a bottle of Dramamine, and an early morning flight. The delusional result is an album of complete immersion and instinct, with personal background (the story removes shrapnel embedded from Cook’s failed marriage) meeting psychological fascinations (German realpolitik, Freud, Oedipus, and the lasting social and cultural fallout of WWI… you know, the usual rock ’n’ roll stuff). Structured, composed songwriting from the band’s freakishly tight backbone — guitar prodigy Jesse Parmet and bulldozing drummer Noah Shomberg — blend with the impulsiveness of their wild-eyed, punk-reincarnation-of-Elvis frontman.
Boy in a Well sounds like Alan Lomax using his field recorder to capture Mance Lipscomb ripping a laced joint (or something much more potent) with The Cramps and strapping their instruments on to let that shit fly. But while the band dials into the finest, frenetic trucker-speed induced scuzz blues, there is patience and dark soul within and between songs much like the blank space between paragraphs and chapters. Each track is a division of the plot — paired visually with an accompanying comic book, illustrated by J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers — that seamlessly blends into the next.
“Armistice Day” slowly awakens in an altered reality with distant echoing piano, ghostly harmonics, and menacing chants, leading way to “A Decision is Made”, the feverish rockabilly-cum-muscular blues and fuzzed out, grungy, bottleneck slide acoustic guitar force of Parmet. The kinetic “Mon Dieu” reimagines the Dead Kennedys three decades on with its fiery cosmic psychobilly and retro R&B/garage tones. There are solar flashes of surf (“No Going Back”), Bo Diddley’s shaker man shufflin’ groove (“Mon Nom”), the punched out, funky drumming of the Blues Explosion’s Russell Simins (“Face to Face to Face”), and a sulfuric, slicked-up Carl Perkins for the modern world in “Linen for the Orphan.”
Later, “Room with a View” is a lonesome ballad that tells the story of the unwanted child growing up in the well where he was abandoned. It’s a touching, melancholy, moral take not typically characteristic of the group. Similarly, a contrast is present in a softer, stripped-down picked-acoustic side in “God’s Mercy”, “A Visitor is Welcomed”, and “The Awe and Anguish” — the latter of which sounds like a lost track from a 1940s Smithsonian Folkways album. Finally, “Reunion” paints a vision of The Who’s Tommy, a fitting bookend to the concept and aural diversity.
The Yawpers’ Boy in a Well is complex; it’s a manically conceived, historically situated, emotionally underscored, plot-driven fictive universe. It’s demented, unpredictable, taboo, ambitious, and yet distinctively cohesive.
A Shadow of Jaguar is a rock and roll duo from Boulder, Colorado. Formed in early 2015, the two share a common foundation of rock, blues, and soul. The band immediately hit the ground running. Within weeks the pair had begun writing and recording original material while rocking audiences at shows throughout the country. ASOJ's first single, Mama Needs the Bottle, was recorded in the Spring of 2015 and released later that year, along with the music video, which was filmed during the band’s debut in New York City.
The duo is fronted by Brian Hubbert, known as the soulful lead singer of one of Colorado’s most exciting and prominent acts, Cold River City. In A Shadow of Jaguar, Hubbert’s homemade slide guitar fills their sound with a monstrous tone. His playing is dripping with blues and exploding in flurries of energy. Drummer Andrew Oakley provides the backbone for the duo. After making a name for himself in the successful Boulder rock outfit, West Water Outlaws, Oakley went searching for a new musical identity. This was quickly found in the form of the stripped down, raw, energetic sound of ASOJ. His high energy drumming gives the band a heavy rock edge and a deep groove. Together, the chemistry between Hubbert and Oakley is undeniable. Their sets are a combination of original songs and improvisation, making every show unique. A Shadow of Jaguar is gaining a reputation as an energetic live band, leaving it all on the stage night after night.
Indie rockers Ruby Bones combine energetic rhythms with visceral, existential lyrics and unabashed hooks to form short, punchy songs best digested in the sweat-soaked clubs that define New Jersey and Brooklyn.
Made up of vocalist/guitarist Chris Nova, drummer James Janocha, and South African import FC Spies on bass, the trio (along with Denis Daley providing sax) describes itself as "Bruce Springsteen on cocaine after a few drags off a helium balloon."
With a mutual love of rock and roll, the band turned Nova's folk songs into thoughtful yet vibrant tracks inspired by loss, love, and the double-edged blade of our tech-reliant culture.