MUSIC BOX: Blues, funk, and psychobilly folk grass
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Billygoats bring gritty folk-grass to Silver Dollar.
The Payette River area north of Boise is raw, rugged and at times, its currents unpredictable. The same can be said for the progressive psychobilly folk-grass Boise band, Jonathan Warren & The Billygoats.
Let’s start with the Goats’ unusual instrumentation. Warren writes a majority of the material with some help from his bandmates, usually playing acoustic guitar behind his voice, but also contributing banjo, harmonica and, on studio albums, upright bass. Rather than a thumping upright bass in the stage lineup, cellist and harmony vocalist David Sather is capable of low-end bass lines, a wide range of bowing timbres, even horn-like qualities. Having grown up in Jackson, Miss., Sather’s vocals pair well as a Southern counterpart of Warren’s. He grew up around classical music and was a vocal performance major in college where he grew fond of crooning Sinatra tunes. Rounding out the core trio is drummer Andrew Smith, an L.A. native that wound up in the Latin funk scene of San Francisco as a teen.
“We usually pick up an [extra] instrumentalist to travel with us. Last tour we had a rockin’ guitar player and were more of a rock band, this time we’ll likely have a fiddle player and have more of a folky vibe,” said Warren, who works part-time for the Knitting Factory, but is primarily a full-time musician. “It’s fun adding different instrumentalists because they put their own feel on it, and I’m not one to tell someone exactly what to play. If I like it, we’ll keep ’em, if I don’t, we won’t.”
Warren got his musical start in Knoxville, Tenn., as original upright bassist for folk/swing band Christabel and the Jons. He began experimenting with songwriting while getting to know his own voice as a new singer. He took a job leading backpacking trips for troubled youth in the small town of Shoshone, Idaho, before eventually landing in Boise to form the Goats. Since then, he has found a group of guys that share his musical vision and are compatible travel companions.
Over the course of three studio albums – You Just Relax Honey (2010), A Little Something Stronger Than Wine (2011), and the recently released On This Very Evening (2013) – Warren and the Goats have put out a slightly more polished product while remaining true to its uncooked live feel. Often rollicking and whiskey-drenched, their tunes have a certain spark fire that’s upfront in the mix. This is not the squeaky clean approach you might hear out of Music City, but rather a gritty Appalachian campfire version of the hard strumming, early Avett Brothers with raspy, Southern-drawled vocals that fuse the qualities of Wooden Wand, Steve Earle with a dash of Tom Waits.
“When I started writing music, I was listening to a lot of Mason Jennings, his first two albums,” Warren said. “Townes Van Zandt has been a big influence. I was born in Texas and developed the Texas songwriter style without realizing. Of course, there’s Bob Dylan too.”
Jonathan Warren and The Billygoats, 7:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Silver Dollar Bar. Free. 733-2190.
Mosley and a dobro
With just voice, an electric dobro and a stomp box, Brooklyn-based Bret Mosley is prepared to move you with his signature idiosyncratic intensity that grooves the folk and funks the blues, summing a tribal Americana. He plays the lap-style dobro through an amp, giving it an edge of distortion to match his highly percussive touch. A tireless touring artist, the combination of his soulful voice and instrument brings to mind Ben Harper. He will be making two stops in the Tetons.
Bret Mosley, 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Trap Bar and 9:30 p.m. Sunday at Town Square Tavern. Both shows are free. GrandTarghee.com or 733-3886 to reach the Tavern.