Singer/songwriters & guitarists Dave von Beck and Darren Smith make up the core of Straw Dogs. Bassist, Eric Bryson and drummer, Casey Miller have been the driving force on rhythm for the last six years. Love and then Hope also features many guest musicians that contribute their talents on the following: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, cello, pedal steel and percussion. The overall sound is very rich and extremely vibrant.
This Seattle-based quartet is bringing a fresh sound on the new record by incorporating rock/alternative/country. The unique blend of styles adds up to one splendid form of Americana. IT has guts, IT has roots, IT has substance…..IT has that certain something. A definite special quality is heard on Straw Dogs’ new album, one that can be touched upon and felt by ALL listeners.
The theme behind the title of the CD is that you simply can’t have love without hope. In life, love sometimes isn’t enough and that’s where hope steps up to the plate. The two emotions work together according to Dave von Beck. “We’ve written a fair amount of love songs over the years, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the randomness in life, and that no matter how hard we try and how much we do to set our path, we also need a persistent hope that things will work out. These songs are positive, but also reflect that element of the unknown. I think in times like we’re living today, particularly, we need hope because maybe love just isn’t enough.”
With a powerful title, Straw Dogs’ Love and then Hope is music with a message & purpose. This is music that matters, cares and really connects on a personal level. On song five, “Fire Outside”, Dave touches on a sensitive issue that he holds dear to his heart–the effects of the California wildfires in 2007. A solemn and heartfelt tone is heard for instance during the following line, “Fire inside me like fire outside”. “Remember My Garden”, #6, displays a tender/sensitive feel and apparently this special garden “Holds the seeds of everything I know,” sang by Straw Dogs. Track four, “Serious Love”, offers cooley-cool guitar riffs and the soulful singing really gets you to feel that seriousness of love.
The vocal harmonies/melodies between von Beck and Darren Smith are spot on and simply a joy to hear. Between the well-versed lyrics, the rhythm section and guest artists, Straw Dogs have created a chemistry of sound that is full of life and promise. Whether you say Country, Rock and/or Alternative musicians, one thing is for certain and that is Love and then Hope will be making serious noise in the Indie circuit.
For more on Straw Dogs and their newest release, SKOPE out www.strawdogs.com.
By Jimmy Rae[Rating: 4/5]