Now Hear This

Reviews of new local releases

“Gettin’ Tight with Dreadnaught”
by Dreadnaught, Red Fez Records
File under: Prog-rock, Experimental, Jazz, Funk
Sounds like: Thinking Plague, Steely Dan, King Crimson

One of the Seacoast’s longest-running and most decorated bands, Dreadnaught’s seemingly endless talents and eccentricities have not only stood the test of time, but continue to grow. Bassist Bob Lord and drummer Rick Habib founded their restless, progressive, jam-rock group at UNH in the mid-’90s and soon added guitarist Justin Walton to embark on an adventurous 20-year career. Though the successful solo careers of each musician have slowed the band’s output, the trio’s latest record is another example of their undiminished creativity.

The five-song EP “Gettin’ Tight” is the band’s 10th recording, and yet again, the sound production is first-rate thanks to engineers Jon Wyman and Chris Chase. This time around, the band utilized a heavier, more overdriven distortion than on past releases, yet the soundscape is equally accessible and just as unpredictable. Their technical prowess is still on display, with enough impulsive musical changes to prove they haven’t lost their edge.

The album opens with a decidedly darker tone on the instrumental “Nervous Little Dogs,” in which a flurry of keyboard notes cascades over thick industrial booms and claps that would be at home on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” By the end of the song, Walton’s signature fluttering guitar riffs and solos have taken a more optimistic flight.

On “The Badger,” off-time beats, a variety of sing-shouted vocals, and overdriven bass mix with shimmying guitars that drop out to reveal the sounds of a dog eating a Milk-Bone; the song pays off in a flourish of distorted bass notes and still more time changes. It’s jam-heavy without getting lost in the sea of notes, never straying too far from the song’s structure while visiting so many musical places along the way.

Throughout the album, guitar and rapidly paced vocal melodies balance the heavier, quickly changing discordant rhythms and complex percussion. The continual contrasts are compelling and catchy, even if they’re fleeting, quickly replaced with another unexpected part of the journey.

“Return to the Castle”
by The Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio, Self-produced
File under: Traditional Celtic, Folk, Bluegrass
Sounds like: Liz Carroll, Lunasa, Stanley and Grimm

Over the past two centuries, Celtic music has been an integral part of the development of American musical styles, most notably bluegrass and country music. While some Americans may not be aware of this history, they can take in an impressive Celtic music night at a local venue in most parts of the country. This is especially true here in the Seacoast, and Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki’s shows should be one of the first to be mentioned. He performs every Wednesday at Ri Ra in Portsmouth and every Thursday at The Stone Church in Newmarket.

Tirrell-Wysocki earned his stripes as one of the founders of the revered jam band Jamantics, and he’s a current contributor to the Dusty Gray Band. Together with Matthew Jensen and Chris Noyes, they formed the trio in 2012. When performing live, the trio provides vocals for a number of songs. However, the 11 tracks on their debut album are the best of traditional instrumental waltzes, reels, and original fusion compositions.

There are fantastic renditions of recognizable classics, including “The Mist Covered Mountain,” “Planxty Fanny Power,” and a particularly thrilling take on “Star of Munster/Pigeon on the Gate/Mason’s Apron.” However, the trio’s own songs are equally absorbing. On Jensen’s “Abcs,” they blend traditional Celtic styles with contemporary folk and pop. Here, the moderately paced strumming of the guitar and shorter, soaring fiddle melodies sound akin to a Boyd Tinsley riff with Dave Matthews.

On Tirrell-Wysocki’s own, more upbeat composition, “Comeuppance,” he channels The Charlie Daniels Band with powerful bowing, glue-like melodies, and an impressive volley of notes. For a brilliant performer who plays over 200 shows a year, this is how Tirrell-Wysocki makes his indelible mark.

by Dave Gerard, Savoy Productions
File under: Blues, Jam Rock, World Music, Country
Sounds like: Little Feat, Dave Matthews Band, Richie Havens

Dave Gerard is a Seacoast institution. Having helmed the nationally acclaimed band Truffle since 1986 and maintained a successful solo career since 1996, Gerard may be the most experienced performer in town. His deep, soulful voice has graced stages all over the country on bills with some of the best that music has to offer. Having gained a worldly perspective and now with a daughter of his own, he’s a father with a new album full of uplifting advice and lessons.

For “Five,” his fifth studio album, the songs are as well-written and diverse as always, incorporating blues and funk instrumentation with an impressive percussion section that includes bouzouki, dumbek, congas, Native American drums, and even a Tibetan singing bowl that stretches the album’s sound beyond categorization.

This time, Gerard enlisted the keyboard talents of Bill Payne, of the seminal blues band Little Feat. The various organs provide a vintage atmosphere and accentuating flourishes that add to Gerard’s already distinctive sound. At times, Payne evokes an inspiriting church organ, as on “Brand New Man” and especially on “Happy Home.” The song was written with Gerard’s daughter in mind; in it, he acknowledges our collective role in overcoming life’s unavoidable misfortunes. Here, we find the hopeful songwriter showing off his celebrated guitar skills and a remarkable range and fullness to his voice that average singers would need several recorded tracks to achieve.

In another album highlight, “The Messenger,” they channel the Bayou blues with a tale about a mysterious visitor. Payne’s keyboard creates an eerie mist that Gerard’s guttural howling neatly cuts through. Make no mistake, though — the album is overwhelmingly populated with bright, optimistic jams, the result of a new father’s joy and aspirations.

Dave Gerard will play with Truffle on Saturday, May 16 at The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket.