Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy’s 2010 self-titled debut featured mostly songs about fun and friendships, but when you listen closely to the band’s new record, Hatchetations, you see stark images of American life in the wake of the Great Recession.
Vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter Jarrod Starling says the music now has a narrower lyrical focus, which provides even more emphasis to the social commentary.
“It’s a much darker album," he says. "But I think it explores themes that are universal at least to Americans trying to make a living."
One song that stands out on the album is a western swing and bluegrass-inspired piece called “Promised Land.”
“It kind of reminds me of ‘Wabash Cannonball,’” Starling says. “It’s about the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee River down in Florida, where my grandma’s from and where we spent a bunch of time, me and my brothers."
The American south inspired one of the album's other unusual tracks, “Andersonville,” a dark, brooding number that chronicles life in a Confederate prison camp for Union soldiers. The song features a number of guest musicians and, according to bassist Brody Wellman, is only a recent addition to the group's live sets.
“It was something that we would never play live," he says. "And I think it almost took us sitting down in the studio and tracking it out, having other people bring their ideas into it and now it’s something that we developed and it’s something we can play live.”
Jarrod Starling adds, “I really wanted to portray the isolation that you felt—that you would feel—in a prison camp. The song’s dreary and it hangs, there’s a lot of long tones, there’s a lot of epic rises and falls. The fiddle does a good job mimicking the time period.”
The five members of Carrie Nations are comfortable playing in bars and bars seem to be a places where their music and the subjects of their music fuse. But vocalist, Starling admits that bars are not the best places to pick up on his carefully crafted lyrics.
“When we play live there’s the constant complaint that nobody can tell what I’m sayin’,” Starling says. “So, I let them buy the album and figure out what I’m saying, so I can’t necessarily be concerned… except for on the slower songs. On the slower songs a lot of ‘em are deep, so they have something to say, so I try to enunciate the best that I can. But we try to just keep it weird, keep it energetic, keep it fun, to where, like, it’s not like the band that played last Tuesday at your bar in your town. It’s something new, it’s something different, it’s something fresh rolling into town.”
Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy celebrates the release of Hatchetations Thursday evening.
Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy with The Calamity Cubes
Thursday, Sept. 26 2013.
$7 or $15 with cover and CD