On Houndmouth’s full-length debut, 2013’s From the Hills Below the City, you can tell the quartet is smitten with the majestic charm of Americana masters The Band. “Penitentiary,” the calling-card tune that triggered Internet buzz and eventually drew the interest of famed indie label Rough Trade, could be mistaken for a Music from Big Pink bonus track. Jangly guitars and atmospheric organ set the scene as frontman Matt Myers’ affected, slow-motion croon reveals this of the song’s down-on-his-luck protagonist: “I couldn’t get a job/So I did the next best thing and learned how to rob.” The tune’s rousing final third is marked by serpentine guitar lines, crashing drums and the backing vocals of Katie Toupin, Houndmouth’s long-limbed secret weapon.
Much of From the Hills Below the City mines a similar vein of classic, down-home Roots Rock (the young quartet hails from New Albany, Ind., just a jump across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.). “On the Road” makes effective use of Myers’ and Toupin’s interweaving vocals, while the Honky Tonk-inflected “Houston Train” is but one of several tunes to convey the travails of life on the move. “Long as You’re at Home” sounds like the result of an inspired, liquor-fueled campfire jam.
Houndmouth will never be mistaken as groundbreakers, but word is its genial, instrument-swapping live show is something special, as the YouTube versions of its endearingly ramshackle take on Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” can attest.
HOUNDMOUTH performs Friday, March 21 at Newport's Southgate House Revival. Tickets/more info here .