Out in the Pacific Northwest they brew their bluegrass a little differently! Sure, the mandolin, fiddle, and banjo are all there, but they’re not afraid to toss in influences from raggedy pop songwriting to punk instrumental aggression. High-energy Seattle stringband The Warren G. Hardings pour a long tall pint of this Cascadian brewgrass on their new album, Get A Life. Inspired by the greats of American roots music, they’re all hardcore pickers on their instruments, casually tossing solos back and forth on stage. Though the music they create has obvious nods to a rural American past, the songwriting here owes more to the fierce politics of the Northwest than any kind of old-timey nostalgia. Or maybe more to the helter-skelter lifestyle of young men trying to make their names in an overloaded city, for many of the songs here speak to the stresses of building a life and a job on your own.
Known as a raging performance band, The Warren G. Hardings have been playing to hungry crowds all over the Northwest for the past few years, ever since meeting at underground bluegrass jams. When they went into the studio to record the new album, they were able to present some of the brash energy of their stage show, but also to draw back to more introspective and thoughtful songs. It’s a beautifully balanced album, and a snapshot of just how hard Northwest rootsgrass can rock.
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Recorded in Seattle at Empty Sea Studios, Get A Life features original songs and rapid-fire machine-gun picking from this quintet of next-gen roots musicians. Lead singer and principal songwriterDave Zelonka comes out the gate like a thoroughbred on the opening song “Treehouse,” channeling some of the punk rock he grew up with. Mandolinist, vocalist and fellow songwriter Gabriel Marowitz leads off the next song, “High & Low,” with righteous fury and saw-toothed vocals.
A theme of love and longing runs throughout the album, interspersed with poetic odes (“my girl is cool as water/warm as brandy wine”) and tongue-in-cheek humor (as in “Cannibal Lies”). Songs like “Drifting,” recount the feeling of one’s life spinning out of control, while “Anonymous Waltz,” pines for a lost loved-one. The Warren G. Hardings are at the forefront of a fresh wave of Cascadian newgrass. There’s an abandon to their music that unites the carefree folk music of a time long gone with the red-hot roots music movement that’s sweeping the nation.