A talented band can meld diverse musical styles, capitalize on its members’ abilities, and deliver memorable performances. Translating this energy to the studio and recreating the energy of a live show into a recording requires a great band with excellent material and natural chemistry. With their sophomore album Sing My Song, That Damn Sasquatch show that lightning can be bottled in the studio, delivering a record that captures their unique blend of traditional and modern bluegrass with a Cajun twist in Colorado’s crowded bluegrass scene.
That Damn Sasquatch consists of longtime friends and Topeka, Kansas, transplants Spencer Crawford, Mike Hall and Derek Bridges, as well as Boulder native Jim Fischer. After being recognized as Westword’s Best Bluegrass Band in 2015, the band have seen an increased workload, inspiring them to produce a new album featuring some of the songs that have highlighted their live performances for several years. There are so many great tracks on this all-original album, so it is difficult to just highlight a few.
Sing My Song opens with a populist anthem inspired by the band’s roots in rural Kansas. Crawford’s “Come on Back to the Holler” tells of a man coping with loss on the prairie while the world changes around him. Yet he maintains hope, with the catchy conclusion that “all this drinkin’ has got me thinkin’ that the good times are almost here.” The song includes a bittersweet fiddle solo by multi-instrumentalist Crawford, who also treats listeners to adept banjo and accordion work on the album. The song also includes vocal interplay between Crawford and primary vocalist Bridges, highlighting the dual songwriter and bandleader roles these two share.
“Writing on the Wall” is the first song to feature the talented lyricism of Bridges, who captures the western outlaw ethos with lines like “now it’s cold and lonesome, just like this tortured soul” and “I lost my mind, my lover too, and now there’s nothing else.” Bridges’ vocal talents capture that classic frontier sound with his baritone-flirting-with-tenor voice, a range perfectly suited to the bluegrass genre. Fischer’s true tenor shines on harmonies that highlight the band’s vocal talents. Jeff Rady guests on this track with Bakersfield steel guitar, giving it a decidedly more country sound than the bluegrass of “Come on Back to the Holler.” The contrast between these two songs demonstrates the genre-bending versatility of That Damn Sasquatch.
Further highlighting their musical range, the band change gears on “This Party Might Be Through” with a definite Cajun/Zydeco sound. Crawford contributes with accordion and fiddle, Hall adds washboard, Trumpet John guests on trumpet and Zach West provides a Cajun backbeat. Crawford was inspired to learn accordion from the legendary and recently departed Buckwheat Zydeco, and this song pays respectful tribute to the sound of the bayou as the upbeat tempo contrasts with the doleful lyrics contemplating the future of swamp country in the face of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Sing My Song is a stellar effort that demonstrates how well That Damn Sasquatch navigates the spaces between traditional bluegrass, jam-influenced newgrass, and the music of the swamp to produce a unique sound in Colorado’s bluegrass scene.
Pow'r Pickin' is the official publication of the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society • March 2017 •