- Be-er, Be-er
(Self-released, digital download)
Be-er are a Burlington four-piece specializing in warm, straightforward bar rock. The name is, of course, a play on Vermont's beverage of choice — the band's website cheekily invites you to "drink it in." But if "bar rock" evokes some kind of blind-drunk frat party to you, rest assured, this is something altogether different.
Be-er's lineup is heavy on scene veterans. Zach Landis sings lead, plays guitar, and contributes some choice piano and organ licks. James Bellizia holds down guitar No. 2. Michael Nedell moves the low end on bass guitar. And drummer Todd Gevry is a consummate sideman, all authority and restraint. Everyone chips in quite credibly on backup vocals, too.
The band's self-titled debut LP is a humble and charming little project. A lot of these songs have a distinctly country flavor, but it's by way of Dinosaur Jr., not Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. This is guitar-driven, all-American music — and a perfectly timed, breezy summer soundtrack.
Take opener "Hide," which launches itself from a guitar riff, as most tracks here do. "Gonna hide out in the woods," sings Landis, "make a bunch of noise, up in the hills, me and the boys." This kind of self-aware simplicity exemplifies every cut on the album, a formula from which Be-er rarely deviate. Indeed, the chorus is just "I'm gonna hide," over a wash of moving harmonies.
That sound doesn't change much for the rest of the album, aside from a few blasts of slide guitar from guest George Seymour, who sits in for three songs. The band doesn't really need to branch out, though, when it can cut takes so clean and pure. This is its secret weapon: Despite the simplicity of the material here, the band is an exceptionally tight, experienced crew. Even on the loosest tracks, such as the jazzy, jammy "Steal You Away," not a note is out of place.
This careful approach serves the band well, but what really sets Be-er apart from any given festival lineup is a kind of innocence. There's no anger or even cynicism on this LP. What's more, you never get the sense that their earnestness is a put-on or a pose.
Hell, the closest they get to an actual drinking song is "Meet You at the Bar," which turns out to be a celebration of community and friendship rather than a call for another round. And album closer "Sunny Skies" is actually about sunny skies.
Which fits their brand, right? Be-er aren't here to reinvent, well, much of anything. At all. They're simply here to have a great time playing music. That aesthetic works because you can hear their joy seeping into every song. So, while this album may not be for everyone, Be-er are mighty easy to love. With just the right mix of amateur gusto and understated chops, their debut may well charm the socks off of you.
Be-er is available at be-er.bandcamp.com. Be-er celebrate their album release with Dino Bravo on Thursday, August 22, at the Monkey House in Winooski.