Damn Tall Buildings: “Sleeping Dogs” (2022) CD Review

It feels like a good time to turn to bluegrass music. With the deepening divisions between people, and the fires and droughts due to climate change, and women’s rights being systemically stripped, and the daily gun violence making a simple trip to the store something many now fear, well, things are looking grim. We need something to lift our spirits, to remind us of our better selves, to unite us at least to some degree. Fortunately, bluegrass is capable of all that. Sleeping Dogs, the new album from Damn Tall Buildings, features all original music, most of it written by Max Capistran. The band, which formed in Boston and is now based in Brooklyn, is made up of Avery Ballotta on violin, banjo and vocals; Max Capistran on guitar, banjo and vocals; and Sasha Dubyk on upright bass and vocals. Joining them on this release are Emily Gervaise Moran on guitar, Anh Phung on flute, Micah Cowher on drums, Lars Thorson on lap steel, Dylan McCarthy on mandolin, Garrett Eaton on trumpet, and Dan Cardinal on keyboard.

The album opens with “What A Nice Life” which starts with the line “Oh, what a nice life we once had.” Ah yes, there is that feeling among us that things once were good, whether that’s true or not. But this music brings those better times to the present, especially a cheerful number like this one, with its “doo doo doo” vocals, even if here they also sing “But there ain’t no time for fine times about as far as we can see.” There is even a bit of whistling toward the end. The cheerful vibes continue with “Dark Window Panes,” bluegrass with a delicious jazzy element. Garrett Eaton joins the group on trumpet on this wonderful song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Running ‘cause I’m feeling late, there’s no need to hesitate/All the good living’s at the end of the road/At the end of the road, at the end of the road/It’s the end of the road.” It comes to a sudden ending all too soon.

“Podcast” has a slower, delightful groove, touching upon one of those traditional bluegrass topics, podcasts. “Your podcast sucks and I think I hate you.” There is a wonderful humor to this track, and some powerful vocal work, but it’s that groove that makes the song so catchy. This one was written by all three band members. “I woke up early and I’m tired of it.” Then in “Cold Rain” they sing, “Sure is a hot one, so we’re sitting in the shade/But who are we fooling, burning up just the same.” Oh yes, I think basically wherever you are in the country you’re going to be able to relate to those lines. And that “woo-ooh” part is admittedly catchy. This track features some nice work on fiddle, and Dylan McCarthy joins them on mandolin, delivering some wonderful work. Micah Cowher plays drums on this one. That’s followed by “Lemons,” another catchy number. A good deal of its appeal is in the vocal rhythm, the lyrics coming at us quickly at the beginning, seeming to urge us to just jump in and enjoy ourselves. “Well, it’s a long life you’re living when you’re living out a long life/Sure it’s been a short time, but it’s so good to see ya/All the sad songs, bouncing off the roof tops/I’m sitting on the same block, but I swear that I can hear it.” Anh Phung joins the group on flute on this one, adding a beautiful element. And then when it seems the song is coming to an end, instead it picks up the pace for an absolutely wonderful instrumental section. This is one of my favorite tracks.

The band then slows things down a bit with “My Baby,” which features some pretty work on guitar and banjo. This one was written by Avery Ballotta. Check out these lines: “And eyes so far from lying, that they stand straight up and down/And up to the heavens, oh, where we might be found.” Such a sweet song, and containing some good vocals. Emily Gervaise Moran plays electric guitar on this track. “Patio” is another of the disc’s highlights. This track’s strong, bright harmonies feel capable of uniting the entire country. “Woke up, foggy window panes, sitting still staring at the pouring rain/All feels different but it looks the same, got up early and I’m tired again.” Then “Painter” is fun from its start. You might find yourself joining in on the song’s chorus: “But it’s just the cold you’re getting used to/And breathing’s just a way of getting by/Well it's all coming down, no use in staring/So I’m looking backwards, through the rearview, getting high.” Lars Thorson plays lap steel on this track.

“Quietly Heartbreaking” is a beautiful song, this one written by Sasha Dubyk. It features some lovely touches on violin. “Sit and wait for the roadside flowers/I’ll be sitting here for days, giving all my time away/Just so I can see you soon.” That’s followed by “Sweet Girl” which contains some catchy work on bass. The bass feels like this song’s heart, its power source. Micah Cowher joins the group on drums. “All while time keeps on moving, always moving away/Oh, I am not myself/I am everyone else.” This song has a great energy, and there is a playful element. Also, we are treated to more good work on violin. The album then closes with its title track, “Sleeping Dogs.” The opening lines of this one take me back to the cold winter mornings when I was living in Massachusetts and chipping ice off the windshield. Reminders like that make me happy once again that I am now in California. Dan Cardinal plays keyboards on this one. It is a totally enjoyable song, and I am especially fond of that fun section in the track’s second half.

CD Track List

  1. What A Nice Life
  2. Dark Window Panes
  3. Podcast
  4. Cold Rain
  5. Lemons
  6. My Baby
  7. Patio
  8. Painter
  9. Quietly Heartbreaking
  10. Sweet Girl
  11. Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogsis scheduled to be released on September 9, 2022.

source http://michaelsmusiclog.blogspot.com/2022/08/damn-tall-buildings-sleeping-dogs-2022.html

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