Mix indie rock, shoegazer rock, Britpop, and classic rock and what do you get? In The Dreadful Yawns case: music that is known as Americana, though I prefer to use Gram Parsons’ term for it – “cosmic American music”. How do you go from the mixture above and up playing alternative country? Singer/guitarist/songwriter Ben Gmetro started listening to lots of Byrds albums along with a helping of British folk rock players like The Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. The Cleveland based band released an album titled Early in 2003. Their second album has been released by Bomp and is self-titled.
Sweet steel guitar from guest player Al Moss ushers in the first track, “You Sold The Farm”, and you immediately know this is not an album you can just put on as background music. It requires involvement in one’s listening as the nuances have nuances that don’t raise much above a whisper on many of the songs imparting a mystical feel to the proceedings that’s rather elegiac. The Dreadful Yawns can get your feet tapping at times, like on the choogling “Get Yourself Back Home” and the power pop of “Better Things To Do”, but most of the songs are quiet, yet deceptively laid back. There’s a good amount of tension even on a cut like “Part Of Your Past” where the band sounds like they could barely move their hands to play their instruments. It’s a tribute to them that something so spare could have so many undercurrents.
There’s a nice and happy song about being dead, “Back In The Ground”, but everything’s all right since “the children live on”. “The People And The Sky” will give you a good dose of country psychedelia without any corrupting whimsy. “Drinking Song” features one of the weirder lyrics I’ve heard in the last week or so:
I’m not the same person you were used to
Feels like I’m wearing a Halloween costume
Trying not to scare little kids
Me and my T-Rex wig
It’s getting hard to look in the mirror
Finally, “Lullaby” makes most dirges sound like speed metal compared to it. It’s like Sufjan Stevens, but without the banjo or silliness.
Ben Gmetro, Dave Molnar, Mike Allan, and Charlie Druesedow have certainly made an interesting record. The Dreadful Yawns is the kind of album that comes in and sits a spell. Soon time is suspended, the album is finished and you’re wondering where the hour went so fast. Influences…sure there’s a big helping of Gram Parsons, Byrds, and Grateful Dead in the mix. I’d say those are some mighty fine folk to draw inspiration from, wouldn’t you?