Local roots-rockers Harley Bourbon stopped by the office last week and dropped off a copy of their new album, “Old Empty Bottle.” Not one of those fancy-pants official versions with cover art and a track list and all that stuff … we’re talking the whole thing on one 40:43 minute track on a blank CD that says “Harley Bourbon” and “mastered” in black-marker chicken scratches.
I popped it into the computer, and laughed when this came up:
Apparently, according to the database that iTunes uses to identify CDs, “Linnea Bradley” also released one 40:43-long track at some point called “Smoking Cessation.” New Age, no less.
I went ahead and imported the CD. I’ll fix the info … eventually … maybe.
Anyway, this little bit of metadata confusion is especially funny because of Harley Bourbon frontman John Forrest’s voice, an gnarly cocktail of sandpaper and glass shards. Please note that I have no idea if Forrest has ever smoked a cigarette in his life. But he sounds like he has smoked them all.
Regardless, he’s blessed with the pipes for this kind of music; think Paul Westerberg, Shane MacGowan, Bobby Bare Jr. But the most obvious point of reference is Ben Nichols of Lucero. Like that guy, Forrest delivers perfectly and consistently coarse vocals without mangling his memorable melodies. And like Nichols, he’s backed by a mighty fine band. The other three Harley Bourbon-ites — bassist Casey Cathcart, drummer Maxine Roach and guitarist Collin Rhoton — are a well-oiled unit, adept at bashing out a mix of punk-folk, outlaw country, rockabilly and hardcore twang that’s catchy and well-crafted, but also hefty and rough around the edges.
Short version: “Old Empty Bottle” is packed top to bottom with strong songs and strong performances. It’s a heck of a listen. And if you get out and about tonight and end up at McMenamins, you can buy a copy from the band. They’re playing Father Luke’s Room at 9 p.m., and it’s $5 to get in. (Next door in the movie theater, a tribute to The Band called Across The Great Divide — including Gabe Johnson, Tyler Mason and an all-star lineup of other locals — will play at the same time with the same cover charge. Find more info on McMenamins’ party plans here.)
Here’s a taste of “Old Empty Bottle,” a song called “Won’t Be Lonely” … enjoy.