The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.—- Top-notch artists Wake the Bear, Turnbull ACs and A Decade to Die For open the all-ages 8 p.m. show. The $5 cover charge also gets you a copy of the CD.
Named for the fictional female detective conjured up by Holden Caulfield’s younger sister in The Catcher in the Rye, Hazle Weatherfield makes raw but proficient Indie Rock with a rootsy undercurrent, putting the band in the same league as Indie artists like The Weakerthans, Catfish Haven, Bright Eyes and Okkervil River. At the band’s core is the songwriting of singer/guitarist Eric Hand, who crafts tight, concise and emotive songs that are strongly melodic but not in a predictable way. The rhythm section of Brian (bass) and Kevin (drums) McNamee perfectly compliments Hand’s ragged, instinctive guitar playing, giving the songs’ much of their dynamic presence, going from gentler mid-tempo balladry to amped-up stompers (often in the course of a single song).
The self-titled disc opens with “I Woke Up,” which comes off like a smart Country song reimagined by an Indie Pop band, as Hand sings about waking up drunk in a car, something that leads the narrator to reexamine his so-far regrettable life. There’s no happy ending, per se, but music, it turns out, is the subject’s one salvation (“If I can have the music, I think I’ll make it through”).
It’s that sort of honest, uncontrived writing that prevails on the disc. The tales spun by Hand aren’t wrapped up with a nice bow — they’re like real life, complicated, uncertain and open to options. Melancholy is the only constant. Like the book from which the band gets its name, Hand’s writing comes off like the true-life poetry of someone coming to grips with getting older after the folly of youth.
Hand’s guitar playing is also a guiding force. Driving but jangly, his guitar work is reminiscent of The Feelies or early R.E.M., filtered through a more contemporary prospective. He doesn’t rely on guitar effects, which gives an intimacy to the tone. Likewise, the band as a whole isn’t dependent on tricks, studio or otherwise; the production keeps the proceedings unfussy and clear.
With its debut, Hazle Weatherfield proves that good songs played well is still the most important thing in making a great band. It’s a long way until we start compiling our 2009 “best-ofs,” but with its dog-eared, unprocessed power and smart lyrical prowess, Hazle Weatherfield will no doubt make my list come December.
For more on the band, go to myspace.com/hazleweatherfield.