"It's the last night of July, and I'm on a bender," sings Patrick Crowley on "Wined and Dined," a standout track on Quasar Valley Band's new release, QVP EP. "Someone wrote their number on my hand, but I can't remember," he later confesses. Forget pickup trucks and American pie; to me, country is pain and regret with a wry grin at the end.
Crowley is better known around the Vermont scene for his work with Deep River Saints, an Americana project that tantalizingly dipped into psychedelia and indie rock. With Quasar Valley Band, the formerly California-based singer-songwriter has moved squarely into country music.
Again, forget all the fake southern accents and paint-by-numbers songwriting that plague modern commercial country music. Crowley and company have produced a record that simultaneously leans traditional in its sonic approach and feels like a fresh take.
"To Be Absorbed" is a perfect example. The song itself is an easygoing romp, not unlike a good Sunday drive away from the city. Reilly Graham's pedal steel guitar licks flash like the sun glinting off the hood of a car. His tasteful playing leaves splashes of color throughout the EP. Crowley's vocal approach, in both his melodic choices and his timbre, suggests a clear respect for the genre that never turns to cliché or parody.
Similarly, when the whole band drops in about halfway through "Village Green Motel," QVB — which includes guitarist Rick Frauton, drummer Stevie Van Houten and bassist Josh Tyack — truly show the source of their magic. Free of the dogmatic production styles that plague much of modern country, QVB achieve a sound somewhere between Sturgill Simpson and the great sheen found on late-1970s folk-rock records.
David William Ross' ace production deserves special attention. The English-born producer and virtuoso guitarist also worked with Crowley on the excellent Deep River Saints album For Posterity. The two clearly get each other. The result of their latest collaboration is a unique sound — at least up here in these northern parts. Yes, QVB EP is a country record, but it's candy-coated with classic pop catchiness.
Each of QVB EP's six tracks contains a multitude. Crowley's songwriting is as sophisticated as it is inventive, and there isn't a misstep or repetition on the record. It is lean, mean and ready to soundtrack a nice early-evening drink — maybe contemplating life's bigger questions or just thinking about some good times in the past. Either way, QVB have you covered.
QVB EP is available at quasarvalleyband.bandcamp.com.