In addition to the scores of albums Seven Days receives from the myriad bands and artists currently living in Vermont, we also see a fair number of submissions from formerly local folks. And since we love keeping tabs on old friends, every now and then we take a brief look at their most recent projects.
To that end, here are four new albums from once-Vermont-based artists who've since moved to pastures they apparently find even greener.
Kate Lorenz, Sing When Lonely
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
The liner notes of Kate Lorenz's debut album, Sing When Lonely, contain a photograph of a very young Lorenz dressed in a cowboy hat with a bandana tied around her neck. Though it's unclear to which side of the law this young buckaroo belonged, the gnarly outlaw country-rock on the record implies a devilish streak.
Now based in western Massachusetts, Lorenz, a preschool teacher, regularly performs with her band, the Constellations, as well as with the southern Vermont honky-tonk group the Rear Defrosters. Originally from south-central Vermont, Lorenz comes from a talented family. Her brother, Matt, is well known for his grizzled one-man band the Suitcase Junket. He plays here alongside his sister and also produced the record.
A fuzzed-up, sinister bass line and rippling guitars add surf-rock vibes to the feisty "Slidetackle Into Your Heart." Childhood references — monkey bars, cartwheels and kiddie pools — make the love of which she sings feel untempered by the weight of the world.
Standout cut "Dive Bars" has Lorenz pining for authenticity. Over jabs of gritty bass and a shuffling drumbeat, she urgently sings of the good old days before gentrification invented the concept of "faux dive." She sings: "We'll crank the tunes up high / Keep the standards low / Tell me where did all the good dive bars go / Cuz if they're all cleaned up we don't go there no more." In Lorenz's opinion, dirty is a good thing.
Her premiere is a triumph. Punchy kits, vibrant guitar work and excellent vocal production showcase Lorenz's exceptional skills as both songwriter and composer.
Sing When Lonely is available on iTunes.
Sam Moss, Neon
(Lost Honey Records, LP, CD, digital download)
When a person's surname describes or relates to their occupation or some other personal quality, it's called an aptronym. Neon, the latest album from prolific folk singer-songwriter Sam Moss, sounds like the artist conjured it from deep within a misty forest full of fallen trees decomposing in a sea of peat and covered in lichen. Sam Moss, indeed.
Formerly based in Brattleboro, Moss is now settled in Boston. He recorded Neon with a new cast of area players at Warrior Camp in Somerville, Mass., though he returned to Guilford Sound in Guilford, Vt. — where he recorded his last record, Fable — for mixing.
As a fingerstyle guitarist, Moss' picking skills add fine, spindly texture to his solemn tunes. He plucks with effortless grace. His acoustic axe mostly takes center stage, while subtle accents of Wurlitzer and synthesizers smolder beneath.
Airy background vocals hover over blazes of electric guitar as Moss reveals trembling ruminations on "Flowers." The dreamlike waltz flows on softly brushed percussion.
On "Rust," Moss picks with fluid haste, and it sounds like spring raindrops clattering on a skylight. Faint, meandering harmonies accompany his haunting vocals.
"Shoulder" is an amorphous, free-associative fever dream. Without drums or other percussion, waves of atmospheric synths and hushed humming surround the singer's reflections.
With Neon, Moss continues a streak of gorgeous albums that spotlight his top-notch musicianship. His lyrics and silken compositions are both stunning.
Neon is available at sammoss.bandcamp.com.
Andrew of the North, Ursa Verde
(Self-released, digital download)
Locals may know New Hampshire-based pianist Andrew Grosvenor from his frequent appearances in Burlington, including the weekly Family Night jam sessions at SideBar and his own monthly residency at Radio Bean. Additionally, he played in the long-defunct Burlington group Woodshed. His mythic current moniker, Andrew of the North, aligns with the grandiose tunes of his latest album, Ursa Verde.
Recorded for the 2018 RPM Challenge — a yearly feat of endurance that tasks participants with crafting a 10-song album in 28 days — Ursa Verde has an energized, urgent sound. Grosvenor played every instrument and tracked all of the parts in his basement. Smartly, he enlisted Burlington's Tank Recording Studio for mixing and mastering assistance; the final product is both scrappy and solid.
Grosvenor's vocals are crisp and clear throughout. His enunciation and vocal timbre recall that of a certain ultra-phamous jam band's front man. In fact, his jangly, soul- and blues-injected keyboard-rock is generally reminiscent of Phish.
Vaguely tropical beats and rounded bass open "Aditi." Multitracked vintage keys and piano gurgle beneath Grosvenor's imposing, occasionally faltering vocals.
With only handclaps and the tinny chirp of a coffee cup struck with a wedding ring, "Holler" stands out from the other keyboard-driven cuts. With references to the Maccabees on every refrain, it's like an obscure folk song you'd hear in an elementary school music class. But what's it doing in the middle of a rock record?
A blown-out Rhodes anchors the bouncy "Tell Me." The narrative ballad draws a connection between life's mundaneness and the anxiety that comes with it.
Grosvenor's tunes have a humble sincerity that makes Ursa Verde a valiant effort.
Ursa Verde is available on Friday, June 15, at CD Baby. Grosvenor celebrates its release on Saturday, June 16, at Radio Bean.
Jamie Lee Thurston, The Window
(Thurston for Entertainment, CD, digital download)
It's been almost 20 years since Jamie Lee Thurston left Vermont to pursue his dream of country music stardom. Currently based in industry mecca Nashville, Tenn., he's still inching toward that dream in a crowded genre full of musical (and physical) doppelgängers.
Some songs on Thurston's latest album, The Window, admirably describe the pains of true love, such as the opening track "Givin' Up Breathing." In his signature butch-AF baritone and dubious Southern accent, the singer details a breakup over sharply picked electric guitar. He sings, "I could swear off nicotine / Say goodbye to caffeine / No more alcohol / I could live without it all" before declaring, "Giving you up is like givin' up breathing." He's undoubtedly a romantic.
However, it's hard to look past certain flaws. Though hardly the first contemporary country artist to do so, Thurston idealizes women in a tone-deaf way — primarily on "Real Man's Woman." Over a basic bar beat and a backdrop of whirling organ and sparking electric guitar, the mid-tempo tune glamorizes fabled women who like football and cars and who can get "down and dirty" with the boys.
Of course, mechanically minded ladies who love professional sports do exist — as do the guys who love them. But to explicitly elevate the "real man's woman" and shame their "high maintenance" counterparts is not only misogynistic, it implies that men who don't share his vision of the "real man's woman" aren't, in fact, real men themselves.
In a time when gender roles — and attitudes — are being called into question and American values are evolving past the 20th century, Thurston seems oblivious to that reckoning.
The Window is available on iTunes.