Album review: ‘Washoe,’ Dead Winter Carpenters

Photographer Ryan Salm captures the Dead Winter Carpenters behind the icicles in Tahoe City.
Photographer Ryan Salm captures the Dead Winter Carpenters behind the icicles in Tahoe City.

Editor’s note: Lake Tahoe’s Dead Winter Carpenters celebrate the release of “Washoe” with a show at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, in the Crystal Bay Casino, the venue where the band started. The openers are Gipsy Moon and the after-party is Hellbound Glory.

The Dead Winter Carpenters do Lake Tahoe proud once again on its latest album “Washoe” with its indelible Sierra Nevada sound.

For those who have been catching DWC shows since they were a fun-loving, rowdy group of townees at North Shore, “Washoe” is confirmation that the group is as kickass as it always has been, maybe even more, and they are still getting into their usual mountain country-rock high jinks.

To the friends and bands who have burned the midnight oil and traveled the states with Jesse Dunn (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals) Brian Huston (drums, percussion, vocals) David Lockhart (bass, harmonica, cello, vocals) Jenni Charles (fiddle, vocals) and Bryan Daines (lead electric guitar, banjo, vocals), the album is a reflection of those cherished times, re-done with a great soundtrack from the band.

Dead Winter Carpenters WashoeThe opener, “Midnight Ghost,” is one of the coolest songs the band has ever recorded. The opening guitar riff drifts lazily into the desert heat with unguided intentions, which is equal parts 1990s alternative rock and 1980s country riffage, depending on when you grew up. Charles and Dunn harmonize beautifully under the rippling guitar lines that reverberate over the slack-jaw rhythm and the song just hits you with the warmth and sweetness of a sipped double shot of Johnnie Walker.

Listening to Dead Winter Carpenters does give you the familiar buzz of a night out on the town, and Lockhart’s careening “Good Old Time” keeps guest Peter Grant’s pedal steel to the metal as it zooms through the song. Elsewhere, “Winning Hand” is the locals’ version of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” with Jesse Dunn detailing a hard-won night in Reno’s casinos with a melody that dabbles with the glitz of both rhinestone cowboy country and disco. It is an unusual combination, but the band has never shied from genre-crossing tirades.

Take for instance the pulsing “Isn’t It Enough?,” which Charles slays on her fiddle along with the charging picking from Daines, which could be described as both electric bluegrass and countrified rocker. “Dallas” is a feel-good romp aided by the extra umph of Reno jazz cats Tristan Selzler on  trombone and Tony Cataldo on trumpet. The horns and deep-fried groove are reminiscent of The Band at its loosest, though Charles adds a passionate solo at the end of the song that cements the song as a Carpenters’ original.

Where the band tests the waters the most are on the closing couplet of “Maverick Sky” and “Roland and Annalee.” The former is a Daines and Dunn collaboration that rips between Charles’ fiddle and Daines’ titillating fret work. It has elements of both psychedelia and barn-burning country that shape the song in a unique form, though the exaggerated warble of the vocals effects distract from the heart of the song. “Roland and Annalee” starts off as a pretty ballad about two people looking to find some kind of redemption from their respective situations. Once again Charles’ playful fiddling is a noticeable highlight, especially as the band moves to a three-minute esoteric jam. Charles’ fiddle folds over swirling lines from Dunn and Daines, which created a controlled chaos effect and it is the most freewheeling jam on the album.

“Washoe” is an exciting step forward for the Dead Winter Carpenters and friends, family and fans should raise a glass in honor of the the band’s success as it continues to grow and evolve.

Related story: Dead Winter Carpenters build up to “Washoe” LINK

  • Dead Winter Carpenters
    “Washoe”
    Release: Feb. 26, 2016
    Notable Tracks: “Isn’t It Enough?” “Dallas,” “Midnight Ghost”

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