From the first bluesy Telecaster strains of the new Dead Winter Carpenters album, “Washoe,” I knew that Tahoe’s favorite “local band done good” had finally come into its own in the studio. As their third LP and follow up to the 2014 “EP Dirt Nap,” the new album is DWC’s best-produced and most mature album to date.
It is also their most collaborative effort so far, featuring a fine meld of songs from multiple songwriters in a variety of genres. After adding new guitarist Bryan Daines and drummer Brian Huston in 2013, DWC has continued to evolve. When I heard the driving rhythm section, the soaring lonesome fiddle and the road-worn harmonies on this latest effort, I recognized that the Carpenters had hewn their sound into something truly unique within the alt-country and Americana community.
Opening track “Midnight Ghost” lays down a Southern rock groove reminiscent of Widespread Panic. Then Daines offers up a multi-layered guitar number called “Love Amongst Thieves,” an upbeat single with a sound something like Mumford & Sons. Bassist Dave Lockhart leads the charge of “Good Old Time,” a classic bargrass number that could’ve been written in the 1930s and is sure to become a crowd favorite.
The most poignant moment on the album comes in “If I Wrote You a Song” when Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn trade vocals on a story of traveling love, highlighted by the fine pedal steel fills of legendary Peter Grant. The passion of these two recently married bandleaders makes Dead Winter Carpenters what it is, and it’s never shown better than on this beautiful county duet. Dunn and Charles tied the knot in Vermont in October, and this tune is testament to their enduring bond.
Later on in the album, DWC ups the ante with a song any indebted Nevada gambler can relate to called “Winning Hand,” featuring a Stevie Wonder-esque lick and some fine country piano work by local musician Tristan Selzler. This is followed by the outlaw country tune “Is it Enough?” and Daines’s Jethro Tull-like riffing on “North Wind” and “Dallas.” “Aftermath” demonstrates the tremendous influence of Neil Young on the band and reminds one of Crazy Horse at its wide-open best. “Maverick Sky” features an epic jam that is sure to become a live staple with its back and forth guitar and fiddle crescendos leading to a foot-stomping breakdown.
As professional and progressive as it is, the highlights of the new album come when DWC strip down the full sound they have created and returns to their folk beginnings. On “White River Junction,” Jesse sings over simple bluegrass guitar and fiddle to a steady rolling drumbeat of his Vermont roots and the sacrifices we make to migrate to Tahoe and call this paradise home. “There’s no solid ground in between,” the songwriter duly notes. Due to its straightforward storytelling nature, the beautiful fiddle tune and album closer “Roland and Annalee” might be the best song on the album. A classic Western love story told over a sweeping country-bluegrass background, it jams along into unknown territory before drifting off into acoustic space.
Considering all the evolution DWC has experienced during the past few years, they still get me the most when they return to the homeland of their sound. For those of us who’ve watched them grow from local bar band to nationally recognized touring act, Dead Winter Carpenters will always impress with the new ground they break, but it’s their classic acoustic folk-storytelling that always brings me back to what I love about this band. Washoe demonstrates how they’ve grown up into something fantastic and new, all the while keeping hold of the roots that inspire their musical journey.
“Washoe” is now available at deadwintercarpenters.com.
DWC’s “Washoe Album” Release Party will be held on Feb. 27 in the Crown Room at the Crystal Bay Casino. It is sure to be a sell-out crowd ready to party and celebrate this great local band’s continued success and innovation.
Feb. 27 | 9 p.m.
$15 advance | $18 at the door | $35 booth
Crystal Bay Casino | Crystal Bay, Nev.
With Gipsy Moon & After Party with Hellbound Glory