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Friday, May 8, 2009

Review: Straw Dogs - Love And Then Hope

Straw Dogs – Love And Then Hope
2009, Crafty Records

High energy blended in subtle textures. This is an apt description of the music of Straw Dogs, a Seattle Americana quartet that's spreading out of the great northwest faster than influenza on an airplane. Singer/songwriter/guitarists Dave von Beck and Darren Smith feed off the energy and support of bassist Eric Bryson and drummer Casey Miller to create a sound that's part, CSN, part Son Volt and part Ryan Adams. Their latest album, Love And Then Hope is a collection of fourteen intelligent and well-written songs that push at the boundaries of Americana while exemplifying the very soul of the genre.

Love And Then Hope opens with Lie Awake, a song you'll be hearing in one way, shape or form. Lie Awake falls firmly between Country and Rock, but is so well written and so full of real emotion that its hard to imagine this song not being picked up for niche radio as well as for licensing opportunities. Besides it's not often you hear male vulnerability in song outside of canned ballads, which this most definitely is not. Could You is a very interesting musical construct, combing the weird, nervous energy of early REM with the highly melodic and dark timbered sounds of bands like Blue Rodeo. I could see this song doing very well on Americana radio. Down My Hall is a highly accessible pop/country song built around a very strong melody and great harmonies.

Something More is a hopeful love song that looks back at a broken relationship and wishing for another chance. The song is wonderfully tuneful and features both vocalists in harmony. It's a very mellow vibe but perhaps the well-written song on the disc. Waiting By The Gate is an inspired bit of songwriting. The song has a very earthy tone to it that's based in the protagonist's near-desperation. Make sure to give this one a careful listen. My favorite song on the disc is Then Maria. The sway to this song will draw you in, and the singer's pure devotion is palpable. As always, the chorus is full of great harmony, and the melody line will stick in your head for days. Other highlights include Serious Love, Remember My Garden, Numbers and First Time.

Love And Then Hope is one of those albums that you could sit and deconstruct for hours. The musicianship is top notch, as is the songwriting. The more upbeat tunes will haunt your brain, as von Beck and Smith have a unique knack for pop hooks embedded deep in their Americana sound. The heart in the music is distinctive, whether it's an optimistic upbeat country rocker, a sad ballad or a melancholy musical mood. Straw Dogs deserve significant attention; Seattle isn't big enough to hold them.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Straw Dogs at or You can purchase a copy of Love And Then Hope at


Anonymous said...

Was the the Straw Dogs' music and lyrics composed by a super-team of musicians, poets, philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists? No, it's too personal; it must have come from an individual's sensitive, passionate heart. It gets inside of me and wells up in there, until it overflows into conceptual or actual tears. It's simply beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Words and music are truly beautiful! And anyone who has been affected by Southern California fires has got to hear "Fire Outside"!