(2016 Stone After Stone)
The official release event for Trust and Bones will take place October 8th at the Capital Brewery in Middleton. The Mascot Theory will hit the stage at 1:30 pm to kick off the Block Party / Autumn Music Fest.
You can purchase this album here beginning October 14th, the album’s official release date.
If you follow Madison music to any degree it probably doesn’t feel like two years since the Mascot Theory’s last full-length release, Hand Me Down Miracles (read a review here). That’s because the group (Erik Kjelland (vocals/guitar/harmonica), Adam White (guitar/vocals), Nick Fry (bass/vocals) and Paul Metz (drums/vocals)) is freakishly active. Aside from their busy playing schedule and numerous festival appearances – including organizing their own Flannel Fest Americana Music Festival – the band released a five-song EP, Esperanto last December (read that review here). Kjelland also teamed up with Beth Kille in December of 2014 for the beautiful holiday recording North Star (that review is here). In June of 2016 the Mascot Theory released a video for “their song “Over the Horizon,” which appears on Esperanto and which was produced by John Urban of the John Urban Production Co. So to say the Mascot Theory has been active would be a colossal understatement.
The band is a complete package. Kjelland is a songwriting machine who has also produced several solo recordings. He’s co-founder of the group’s label, Stone After Stone Records and his expertise in graphic design has graced all the recordings and promotional materials. He pretty much manages the Mascot Theory and handles the bookings. Oh yes, he has a day job in design and a wife and kids. No wonder then that Trust and Bones’ songs are filled with references to faith, hope, trust and the self-doubt that underscores the frailty of the human condition.
It’s clear from the first pounding bass drum of opener “Best is Yet to Come,” that the band has ratcheted up the intensity level for Trust and Bones. About as good a leadoff single as you could ask for, “Best is Yet to Come” is a punchy rocker highlighted by horns played by Paul Heinecke (All That Jazz Big Band). “The planets don’t care if we win or we lose / Out in the distance obstructed from view / And I’m treading for days like a log on the sea / I can’t save the world and the world can’t save me” sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Acoustic guitar might still be the bedrock for these ten songs – and there’s not a weak one in the bunch – but Trust and Bones benefits from the cranking of White’s often multi-tracked electric guitars, the presence and energy of the multiple-harmony vocals and some weighty contributions from guests.
“Your Eyes Give You Away” is simply great songwriting with contributions from Lillie Mae Rische (Jack White’s band) on harmonies and violin, while sister Scarlett Rische (Jypsi) adds mandolin. There’s a nice instrumental round in the middle section where Kjelland plays a mean harmonica solo. The country lilt includes a knockout chorus. White plays some tasty guitar on “Old Time Revival” while Biff Bumfumgagnge contributes violin. Sam Wilson (Sons of Bill) plays sweet steel guitar on “Fault Line,” which uses California references as a metaphor for a relationship. This track really showcases Kjelland’s vocal abilities, wringing out the emotion with finesse. And just when you think the album has kicked enough ass there is a Sons of Bill cover, “Santa Ana Winds.” The band’s vocalizations are impressive throughout Trust and Bones but they literally explode on this closing track leaving the listener on a high note and reaching for the replay button.
Trust and Bones is the Mascot Theory’s finest album yet. With it they establish a consistent quality of recorded output and further cement their position as one of the most solid outfits that Madison has produced. Now could someone please set them up on a tour and get them out to the rest of the world?