New York Americana rock band A Brief View of the Hudson are influenced by traditional sounds but not intimidated by them. They’re not afraid to be themselves, which is a very good thing. They have punk sarcasm and energy and purist chops: their jaunty ragtime song is a warning to stay the hell away, and their carefree nocturne, complete with Paul Duffy’s organ elegantly handing off to a soulful Stefan Zeniuk tenor sax solo, is the prettiest song about death you’ll ever hear. Their lyrics have wit and bite; the arrangements are smart, tasteful and intriguing. The songs on their new album Querencia – streaming at their Bandcamp page – are catchy and deceptively simple: there are all kinds of neat touches that pop out at you with repeated listening. They’re playing Bowery Electric this Thursday May 9 at around 11; if roots music is your thing, you should go see them.
Guitarists Nick Nace and Ann Enzminger join voices in some rich harmonies fronting the band. Nace’s vocals have a wry, sardonic edge; Enzminger alternates between a country soul wail and a clipped precision in the same vein as Sarah Guild of the New Collisions. The opening track, Where Are Songs sets the tone, Duffy’s swirly, lush organ blending with Sean Boyd’s banjo, Nace’s guitar back in the mix, oscillating through a flange. Wisconsin Window Smasher – a tribute to the legendary Mary Sweeney – has a Sticky Fingers-era Stones vibe, a sound they return to with a vengeance a little later on in the savage working person’s lament No Way Out. Likewise, the harmony-fueled Song About Rocks builds to a growling backbeat rock tune: “Don’t stones cry?” Enzminger ponders.
The banjo waltz My Love Is in Washington DC banjo waltz reminds of Curtis Eller at his most sureal and creepy, Enzminger adding disarmingly high harmonies, “Where angels are bullets and death is a clown.” The intensity peaks out with the angst-driven Somewhere Else, another case where the lyrics contrast with a comforting, familiar, catchy tune, in this case Creedence-flavored rock. Jonnie Miles’ tiptoeing drums give Tilly a suspenseful edge, while Until the Waters Go shuffles along with lively horns and piano. There are also a couple of straight-up gospel numbers, the organ-spiced Angels (a remake of the old standard Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down) and the stripped-down country blues-infused Lay Me Down.