Dave Simonett – vox/guitar, Ryan Young – fiddle, Erik Bery – mandolin, Tim Saxhaug – bass, Dave Carroll – banjo. Looks like I just listed names of band members, but ever since I first saw the band live, all I see when looking at each name is Trampled By Turtles. A band where five band mates play as one.
TxT are a 10-armed octopus that share the same brain performing their unique brand of bluegrass, often at breakneck speed. It is a brain that has been shaped over countless shows over nine years and thousands of miles on the road. And while it is always nice to see a band like the Alabama Shakes come out of nowhere, it is equally nice to see a band like Trampled By Turtles sustain over a length of time to finally get their just due.
On Stars and Satellites, one of our most anticipated albums of 2012, the quintet holed themselves up in a log cabin outside Duluth, MN for their recording sessions. Dave Simonett has this to say:
We wanted to make a record that breathes. We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together. We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept, and ate all in the same space. Musically, we wanted to step out of our comfort zone; the border of which, I believe, defines any creative endeavor.
And it is. Stars and Satellites is a breathing organism. If you have watched any of the “making of” videos, it’s not hard to envision the process playing out in your mind as you listen.
The lead track, “Alone,” is one of the best tunes I’ve come across in some time. The lyrics are straight-forward, yet poignant.
You come into the world, alone.
You go out of the world, alone.
And in between, there’s you and me.
The song starts as if it was casually put together on the porch. There isn’t that frenetic TxT energy that has helped define them over the years, but then the finish that comes in at 2:51 is majestic. It picks you up on the crest of a wave and takes you for a ride that leaves you breathless. I have listened to this track countless times and I don’t know how else to describe it other than magical or perfection or genius.
I’ve had this album for over a month whenever I’m at a loss for what to listen to, I’m drawn to Stars and Satellites like a moth to a flame. The songs, playing and production are all stellar. I could bore you by breaking every song apart but that seems unnecessary. Let’s just say this: Mostly due to their preview of “Widower’s Heart” in our live session with Trampled By Turtles, I have looked forward to this album as much as any album in years past. It delivered and then some.
The band is touring on the heels of a successful SXSW trip (video of “Alone” from SXSW at the bottom). For those in Chicago, you can catch them at The Metro on April 13th. Look for Stars and Satellites on April 10th.