Famed fashion designer Billy Reid will be hosting the Album Release Party for local band The Bear this Friday, January 14th at his store in Historic Downtown Florence, AL. If you are not familiar with The Bear, check out this video of them singing “Sow Your Seeds.” This is the first release of the new series “Live From The Shoals”.
Here is a great review of the new album written by Mr. Andy Frith!
Those around the Shoals who are familiar with local music might be familiar with the Bear. The Bear is the brainchild of the husband and wife duo of Louisa Murray and Nathan Pitts. Pitts and Murray are accompanied by Ben Stedman, Kyle Minckler, and Ben Tanner. On their self-titled debut the Bear draws from so many different musical genres that it is difficult to classify their sound.
Very rarely do albums come along that can’t be pigeon holed into some classification, but the Bear has managed to do just that. Louisa Murray’s incredible vocals may very well be the most important instrument on the songs she penned. She can shift from angst-ridden and vulnerable to powerful and joyous at the blink of an eye. On the first track “On the Shoals” Murray belts out “I’m an Appalachian apparition” which is appropriate because it sounds like an Appalachian folk tale. Murray’s tracks have an old time feel. Track six “Can’t change Your Mind” is reminiscent of a old time vaudeville act, with a little bit of a raucous feel. On track 13 “No Honey for Anybody”, Murray evokes memories of Janis Joplin, while Pitts and company’s playing is worthy of comparison to Big Brother and the Holding Company. At any rate Murray has written many wonderful songs and has the voice to make them incredible.
Nathan Pitts, who also takes lead vocals and wrote several of the songs on the album, has a very different tone to his compositions. Pitts’ songs range from psychedelic to alt-country to straight rock. While Murray’s tone is often angst-ridden and isolated, Pitts counters those feelings with wishful songs of love and optimism. “The Moon and You” which was written by Pitts, comes to a head with a beautiful ambient jam. “Dead of Night” and “Leon’s Farewell” which were both written by Pitts have an alt country feel comparable to Magnolia Electric Company or Ryan Adams. Pitts is also a great songwriter and provides the perfect balance to Murray.
As far as the rest of the band, they have a great full sound with organ, piano, banjo, and pedal steel guitar. The rhythm section is solid and even features extra special handclaps. Ben Tanner, who recorded the album at Wildwood Studios, did an excellent job capturing the energy of the Bear. This was a great feat because I was skeptical as to whether or not a band whose live performances were so good would translate to CD.
Ultimately this is one of the better albums I have heard in a while. There are not that many albums that don’t fit into a certain genre, but the Bear have recorded one. I remember the first time I listened to the classic, “Being there” by Wilco and gave it a different label every time heard it. The same thing occurs when I listen to the Bear. This is truly a wonderful record.
Thanks to Andy Frith for the album review!
Thanks to Ben Tanner, Corey Hannah, and Doc Dailey for the “Live From The Shoals” video. There will be more to come from them on The Shoals Sound very soon!
I hope you like The Bear and that I’ll see you at the album release show at Billy Reid on Friday!