Bethesda and Mammoth Cave Studio and Cauliflower Audio, 2013.
Starting in Kent, Ohio (the first reason to love them and listen) Bethesda will sound mighty familiar if you’re a fan of Ear to the Ground. And if you’re not a fan of ETTG, you should be so you can hear about more awesome music like Bethesda. From their first album as the self-titled EP in 2008, the upcoming release of The Reunion makes four albums for this dynamic locally grown group. Bethesda has toured with Jessica Lea Mayfield, Frontier Ruckus, River City Extension, and He is We, among others. This mix of quirky, funky, soulful sound and an innocent visual creative energy make for a sort of modern Alice in Wonderland feeling that’s almost dreamlike in its playfulness.
“Indie folk” seems to be a popular genre of late, and Bethesda and The Reunion fit in that general area of the musical spectrum. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I hate the tem “indie folk” because at its heart, it’s an oxymoron. Folk is music that is of the people, more cultural art than high art, while independent implies coming from one’s self. No person grows from his or herself alone, they grow as part of a community, so the idea of indie folk is something that seems beyond hard to understand for me. But in Bethesda I can start to see a glimmer of this discordance coming together well. If one were to take Eric Carle mixed with Maurice Sendak and set it to a soundtrack of Ashley Brooke Toussant and Lily Allen, I’m pretty sure The Reunion is what you would end up creating. At the same time, indie folk plain old fits for The Reunion. Local band makes good and has their own album(s), then instead of getting signed somewhere, funds a new album via Kickstarter (how I ended up with an early copy, full disclosure).
The album starts off like many reunions do, an individual slowly joined by others who know each other well, with people jumping in and out of the music as they jump in and out of our lives at times, the highlights being the times when everyone is present and partying together. “Go” starts off at full-power and lets the listener get really revved up before a more gentle opening to As We Grow Old. This seems appropriate, as it takes a bit to warm up as our bodies age instead of jumping out of bed ready to go when we’re younger. There are some restive, contemplative parts to As We Grow Old, before Fit to Leave gets a bit more edgy, or at least not all bouncy and happy and ventures into more theological realms. Signs is eerily beautiful, with abstract vocalization intermixing with strong lyrics and solid instrumentation. After this more low-key reprieve, Rotted Pines brings us back to light-spirited and uplifting sounds with a more fantastical story to tell. Stop Motion Picture is possibly my favorite track with a nearly perfect balance of high and low, fast and slow. The Water’s Way flows like a river, slow and steady at a surface level but deep and powerful if you look below that initial glance, with some lilting riffles at times to mix things up a bit. Water continues to leak a little into the next hand-clapping, foot-stomping tune, as Poisoned Heirloom positively bites at times. Patterns wraps up the album with a slowing, calming melody that ends on a resolved and fulfilled feeling.
This album more than others that I’ve reviewed here on ETTG is great for any number of age groups, and really strikes me as a child-friendly selection. If you want to introduce kids to all that they can do, show them Bethesda. Show them art, show them music, show them creative people coming together to make something that didn’t exist before, and show them the community support that made this dream after the Dreamtiger a reality.
Personnel: Shanna Delaney (Lead vocalist, mad tambourine, hand-claps), Eric Ling (Guitar, vocals, whispers), Jesse Scaggs (Guitar, banjo), Dan Corby (Bass), Justin Rife (Drums and loud noises), Christopher Black (Violin/Viola, keyboard), Evan Story (Drums)
Tracks: The Reunion, Go, As We Grow Old, Fit to Leave, Signs, Rotted Pines, Stop Motion Picture, The Water’s Ways, Poisoned Heirloom, Patterns