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Bombadil's last album was almost its swan song. The quartet of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists - Stuart Robinson, Daniel Michalak, Bryan Rahija and James Phillips recorded All That the Rain Promises in ten days, while living in a barn in Oregon. The barn was so cold, they had to warm their hands by a wood-burning stove between takes. The album's sparkling blend of folk, rock and gentle psychedlia earned rave reviews, but Michalak's continuing hand problems made the future look grim. He¹d developed a case of neural tension that made playing and driving painful. They toured sporadically and weren’t sure about the future of the band.
Happily, a regimen of relaxation and stretching exercises has Michalak's pain under control, and the band is rebuilding its momentum. They spent most of 2012 touring and recording the songs that became Metrics of Affection. The album is their most melodic and adventurous outing yet, a cornucopia of styles marked by mischievously surrealistic lyrics and their familiar lush harmonies. Their inventive arrangements add funk, country, boogie woogie, rap, early rock and hints classic pop songwriting, circa 1940, to their already eclectic sound.
“We produced the album ourselves,” Robinson says. “We recorded in our house in Old North Durham. James [Phillips, our drummer] engineered it in our home studio. It's the first time we recorded at home, instead of going somewhere to make a record. It was also the first time that we used drum machines, synths and samplers. James sang more on this record than ever before, Daniel rapped for the first time, Bryan wrote a cello part for the first time and I recorded pitched wine glasses for the first time. We all write songs and we're not afraid of jumping out of our box to write any kind of song we like, whether it's classical, hip-hop, punk or bluegrass.”
7Horse began as a hypothetical: What if, longtime band mates Joie Calio and Phil Leavitt thought, we bury our musical past and see if we can discover rock ’n’ roll’s Ground Zero?
That question having been explored in bold fashion on their 2011 debut “Let the 7Horse Run,” the blues duo returns with an even deeper sense of purpose on the follow-up, “Songs for a Voodoo Wedding” (due June 10). The larger question: What if the mission were not to locate rock ’n’ roll’s chewy center, but to find and channel their own personal identities?
“I’m a grown man with wants and needs and temptations and faults, and I’m not gonna be afraid to write about any of it,” says Leavitt, the singer/drummer whose sometimes-bawdy, always-honest narratives are filtered through an array of vintage microphones. “Everybody now wants to tell you how sensitive they are. Enough of that. Where’s the attitude? Where’s the swagger? If we can be a two-man Rolling Stones, I say we go for it.”
Adds Calio, who spent much of his career as a bassist before refining the finger-picking and slide skills asked of a blues guitarist: “I feel like on a base level this is what I’m all about as a human being. I feel like we’ve found a renewable source of energy.”It’s all the more remarkable considering 7Horse started as a trial balloon, with Calio and Leavitt exchanging riffs, lyrics and song sketches via iPhone from their homes in Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively. Those ideas in hand, the pair blew through studio sessions that saw them arrange, refine and record one song per day. The results coursed with rawness and immediacy, and it’s a process they replicated in making “Songs for a Voodoo Wedding.”
Part of what informed the sophomore album, however, was the “quality” time Calio and Leavitt spent together in the interim. Though accustomed to touring in the relative luxury of a bus for much of their careers, the pair piled into a van to tour the U.S. behind their first record. On the vehicle’s stereo for most of the slog: The masters, such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Merle Haggard, along with early blues legends such as Little Walter.