Lake Tahoe has its fair share of rugged wildlife that roam the evergreen forests and granite cliffs, from black bears to red-tailed hawks to mountain lions. Last weekend, the basin had another beast roving through its woods, one from Provo, Utah — Grizzly Goat.
With its high desert harmonies, country-folk melodies and campfire storytelling, Grizzly Goat should have no problem adapting to the musical landscape of the Sierra Nevada. The band’s music speaks to those who fine solace in the woods, find awe in the great expanse of the desert, who can hear the mountains calling to them. “We try to keep our music undomesticated,” said singer and guitarist Nate Waggoner when Tahoe Onstage caught up with him over the phone.
Grizzly Goat’s rambling, outdoorsy vibe makes even more sense when you look at the group’s makeup. Waggoner is studying wildlife and wildlands at Brigham Young University, fiddle player and guitarist Aspen Hassell teaches Nordic skiing at Sundance Ski Resort, mandolin player Ben Gibson is an avid rock climber and slide guitarist Alex Vincent and drummer Scott Munson have crisscrossed the country playing in different folk ensembles.
There is an obvious love within the band for connecting with nature and finding your place within it. Considering the band’s affinity for the outdoors and its folk-rooted music, it’s not surprising the quintet recorded its latest offering “Ursus Oreamnos Americanus” over the course of three days in a secluded cabin outside of Provo (“Ursus Oreamnos Americanus” is Latin for “American Grizzly Goat,” a nod to Waggoner’s wildlife studies).
The 12-track album has all the golden-hour shades of folk, country and stringband music you would come to expect from music recorded in a cabin. There’s the down-on-your luck-pick-me-up “Oh My Road,” tales of dancing with devilish fate on “Read ‘Em and Weep,” and somber acoustic ballads such as “Out of Sight and Out of Mind,” a sparse, one-take track with just Waggoner and Vincent. “I know people who’ve said they’ve cried to that song when we play it,” Waggoner said.
The guitarist was the principal songwriter on “Ursus Oreamnos Americanus,” although Vincent and Gibson also contributed songs to the effort. While he provided most of the lyrics on the album, Waggoner said he is drawn to the actual music on the record, which incorporates all the talents of the band members. He provides the voice to many of the songs, but everyone brings it to life.
“For me, I’m not super musical, technically speaking. Beyond basic music theory, I really can’t do much. So what I love about it, coming from my perspective, is the fact that I wrote all these songs for the album and then I hand them off to these four guys and then they bring them to fruition and they breathe life into them. The arrangements they’ve been able to bring to these songs is incredible,” Waggoner said.
Grizzly Goat embarked on a lengthy, nationwide tour in support of “Ursus Oreamnos Americanus” this past spring and summer that saw them tour throughout the Mountain West, Midwest and East Coast. Its sturdy hoofs have now set foot in the Rockies, Appalachians and on Sept. 16, the Crystal Bay Casino in the Sierra Nevada. In years to come, hopefully there are more sightings of the nomadic Grizzly Goat stomping amidst the pines.