Whiskey with Goliath by Brian Laidlaw
and the Family Trade
Light Lunch by Heavy Deeds
The thing we’ve been telling people about these two records all year is that the only thing wrong with them is that they’re too short.
We fell in love with Brian Laidlaw the moment we met him, even getting a little gushy in our review of his first release of 2013, the six-track Whiskey with Goliath. In October Brian released a second EP, Echolalia, recorded back in his home-state California with a friend, Danny Vitali. Along the way Brian and his drummer, Sean Gearty, joined Very Small Animal pushing them from a mellow folk group to a full rock band. Their first full-length disc, also out back in November, features some really great work from Brian and Sean backing the great original songs by the group’s founders, Tim Harlan-Marks and Patrick Noonan. As if all this weren’t enough, Brian is now working on Amoratorium, an album of poems and songs about Bonnie & Clyde. It’s been an extraordinary year!
Whiskey with Goliath is a perfect addition to the music you’ll pack on your next roadtrip, unless you’re unfortunate enough to be stuck with one of those people who’d rather talk the whole way (in that case you’ll want to check out “The Setup” below). All seven tracks are filled with fine playing and, especially, Laidlaw’s honey-warm voice. He turns a phrase like an old con rolling a quarter over his knuckles — and every now and then, when you least suspect it, he hits you in the belly with something so sentimental, so sappy, you’re left without a response. “Call your old friends,” begins the chorus of the last track on this too-short EP…
Tell them you love them
tell them no one knows you like they know you
Call your old friends
tell them you love them
and you will love them whatever else they go through
There’s a line on Brian’s first album, Wolf Wolf Wolf, about “former poet laureate Robert Frost” that no one else in the world could have written (“He was a frat boy and a drop out and his life was a train wreck, but he knows what to do when you’re lost”) — it got us to learning a little (“What the hell is a poet laureate?”) and we found out that Minnesota is one of the six or so states that has its own poet laureate. We’d like to nominate Brian to succeed Joyce Sutphen in that position.
01 drugstore hucksters“Drugstore Hucksters”the setup“The Setup”
05 used to have a mountain“Used to Have a Mountain”
There’ve been times when I’m feeling so tall
I can look anybody right in the eye
But I won’t forget my friends, they helped me when I fall
When I was wondering how I’d ever get by without encouraging words
Everybody needs ’em, encouraging words
Just count on me
– from “Encouraging Words” by Black Sheep (an early 70s band featuring Foreigner’s Lou Gramm)
Chris Rose, the Vampire Hands vet who seems to be at the helm of Heavy Deeds, is very different from Brian. He’s shy and soft-spoken, but just as awesome and we love him just as much. Light Lunch, the too-short Heavy Deeds EP, started with Chris in the lead but became collaborative — they describe it as a “family band.” A big family, including folks from all around town — Polica, Pony Trash, Robust Worlds, Web of Sunsets. Even a couple folks who’d never been in a band. Maybe it’s this combination of unique backgrounds, maybe it’s the atmosphere of recording in Neil Weir’s Old Blackberry Way the studio where, yep, our #10 choice was recorded, too.
Something went right because there’s a magical quality to Light Lunch. In the middle of the title track you can hear a little back & forth and laughter at just the right moment — the song is about to swell to an ensemble chorus and someone is offering some encouraging words to singers Sara Bischoff and Molly R. Hilgenberg.
Encouraging words. This album is filled with encouraging words. Skip the player below ahead to “The Great Believers” and you’ll hear what we mean:
Stay loose, stay wild, stay free
Be the great believer in everything that you are
In an interview Chris describes Light Lunch as a “roll-your-windows-down-and-cruise-the-street album,” although that might be tough to do in this weather. Our own review of Light Lunch, posted back in May, had a similar response — we wrote it was “as rejuvenating as a sunny afternoon in your garden.
We think these two records will leave you wistful for warmer weather and an old sedan with open windows. A long stretch of Minnesota highway lined with red pines would be nice. We’re also pretty sure, unfortunately, that the other thing they will leave you wanting is more music by these two bands.
Also: Laidlaw’s understated second release, Echolalia (reviewed here) and the Very Small Animal disc, Port of Call (reviewed here). Heavy Deeds’ Chris Rose also released an album as Robust Worlds on De Stijl Records. And you may find the debut disc by Aldine (reviewed here) a nice companion to these records.
Old Blackberry Way, launching its own record label this year, also released great new albums by the Chambermaids and Gospel Gossip. Put it all together and you’ve got a great afternoon of music — you could probably close your eyes and pretend it’s spring!