Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones are connoisseurs of retro Americana sounds, from rockabilly to 60s soul music. They’re playing Otto’s on Sept 24 at 10 PM; for those who might say, “Eww, the East Village on a Saturday night,” keep in mind that so many of the touristy types who made the neighborhood a place to avoid on the weekend have left town.
Out of all the albums Hope and the band have put out over the years, the very best of them all might be their snarky, irreverent Songs in the Key of Quarantine, streaming at Bandcamp. The core of the band, singer/guitarist Hope and her bassist husband Matthew Goldpaugh put this spot-on, satirical ep out during the darkest months of 2020 with a little help from their bandmates.
The first track is Social Distancing Blues:
Can’t give no one a hug
Can’t hold my baby tight
You got to wear a hazmat suit to get into a fight
And it gets better from there.
Bad Time to Quit Drinking is a grimly funny tune: the gist of it is that there are other things you can do to get high. No Time to Get Bored is a shuffle where Lara chronicles all the goofy things you can do when you’re been put under house arrest by a totalitarian regime.
She shows off some snarling gutter blues guitar chops on You Are Essential, a duet with her husband where they send a grateful shout out to the retail and healthcare workers who kept the economy going when many of the rest of us were depersoned during the endless, bleak days of 2020.
She drops her guard for the sad, spare, plainspoken acoustic soul ballad When Will I See My Grandma Again? Then she picks up the pace with Go Big & Stay Home, a scruffy number which seems a lot more cynical than optimistic. The last song on the album is a cover and it’s not very good – and it’s by a corporate rock guy with blood on his hands. He made his drummer take the lethal Covid injection early during the band’s 2021 tour, and the drummer died after one of the first shows.
The band’s latest album is Here to Tell The Tale, a full-band record also up at Bandcamp, which came out last year. Lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello scramble through a catchy, diverse mix that starts with a simmering ghoulabilly tune, then dips into smoky go-go sounds, vintage Loretta Lynn style C&W and jump blues.
The last time this blog was in the house at one of the band’s shows, it was in 2018 at an Amsterdam Avenue bar which had neither stage nor PA system. Running everything through their amps, the band managed to keep a noisy neighborhood crowd at this onetime dive under control, no small achievement.