Seattle-based indie band Crown Hill has recently issued its self-titled debut album, a rootsy collection of what the band calls “urban folk songs.” Guitarist Tom Watson and keyboardist/guitarist Mike Sievers are the singer-songwriters responsible for all 10 of these original tracks. The set gets off to a rollicking start with the tale of a failed relationship, “There Is the Door.” The song sets the tone for a consistently tuneful listen. Crown Hill has been together for a number of years and it shows—these guys play well together, sounding comfortable within this series of straightforward arrangements.
The smoothest—and hookiest—track is “Songbird,” which boasts an itchy rhythm guitar line and tasty keys by Sievers. The band really settles into a full-bodied, soulful ensemble groove. Watson takes the lion’s share of the lead vocals throughout the album. “She Don’t Love Me No More” is a heartbroken ballad that combines the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” with the sentiment of Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out of My Life.” Another highlight is the somber “Whisper,” with Watson’s earnest, sincere vocal recalling the late, great Pete Ham.
“New Orleans” pays tribute to that city, post-Katrina, with Sievers lamenting his complacency regarding the aftermath of the 2005 storm that claimed 1,833 lives. “While they were swimming down their neighborhood streets/I was lying with my feet up thinking I’m feeling beat,” he sings with self-damning remorse. Sievers also handles vocals on “Perfect Contradiction,” the title of which is explained in the lyric, “I’ve got myself an affliction/I’m so lonely I don’t want to take your call.” The jangly, upbeat music, with strong drumming by Brian Estey, is an appropriate backdrop for the mixed emotions, “When I see you coming around, I feel alive/Then you feel me getting down, you don’t know why.”
Elsewhere on Crown Hill, the band settles into a tougher rock sound for “New York City,” bolstered by the solid foundation provided by bassist John Isenhart and Estey’s drums. Sievers’ Hammond B-3 playing adds an authentic bluesy feel to this one. Carrying on with that vibe is “Holy Water,” a chugging rocker that brings to mind a souped-up Johnny Cash. It all adds up to a very enjoyable debut album, laced with the throwback feel of ‘70s-era singer-songwriters.
(Photo credit: Inti St. Clair)