duende– [duen-de] (noun) 1. a quality of inspiration and passion 2. A heightened sense of emotion, expression and authenticity 3. a spirit Duende, the title of The Band of Heathens’ fifth studio album (and eighth overall), marks their tenth anniversary as a group, and it certainly applies to its overall theme about the collective search for connection and communion in a technology-fueled world increasingly splintered, distracted and lonely. As band co-founder Ed Jurdi, who first learned of the term, explains, “It’ s the essence of the artist,” or as partner Gordy Quist says, “It’ s a word we don’ t have an equivalent for in English, Artistically, that’ s where we tried to set the bar, to do what this band does best.”Indeed, Duende lives up to those high ideals, a stylistically diverse effort that takes a leap beyond their last, more acoustic, introspective effort, 2013’ s Sunday Morning Record, with an eclectic batch of material that shows where The Band of Heathens has been, but more importantly, where they are going. There are high-energy rockers like the Keith Richards-Chuck Berry guitars and barrelhouse piano in “Trouble Came Early” as well as the Grateful Dead-by-way-of J.J. Cale Oklahoma boogie in “Keys to the Kingdom,” and the New Riders pedal steel country twang of “Green Grass of California,” an ode to the more potent strains of sensimilla on the dispensary shelf and a fervent plea to “legalize it.”Duende also touches on some of The Band of Heathens’ favorite topics, from the sacrifices of a life lived on the road (“All I’ m Asking”) to the limits of materialism (“Keys to the Kingdom”), social media absorption (“Cracking the Code”), and a moving depiction of Mexican immigration in an age of increased discrimination (“Road Dust Wheels”). Thematically, Quist’ s “Cracking the Code” comes closest to reiterating the album’ s desire to reconsider the value of relationships and priorities in a world of virtual reality and social media. “While modern technology has certainly allowed us to stay in touch over vast distances – something a band that lives on the road certainly appreciates – it doesn’ t really provide the authentic connection we crave,” says Gordy. “We’ ve created a portal through which we lose ourselves and miss what’ s really going on right in front of us, hiding the fact our supposed connected culture can be a really lonely place.”“I feel the album brings together all our influences, everything we’ ve done over the years as a band,”explains Jurdi. “We’ ve touched on every part of our career... our roots, some singer/songwriter contemplative stuff, some high-energy rock ‘ n’ roll. It’ s all us, the record we were supposed to make. Ten years later, that’ s what keeps us coming back.”
Engineer/co-producer Jim Vollentine (Spoon, White Rabbits, ...And You’ ll Know Us by the Trail of Dead) helped the album’ s diversity sound coherent, adding unique touches such as mellotron and drum machines to the loping rockabilly of tracks like “All I’ m Asking.”The term “Americana” was practically invented to describe The Band of Heathens’ approach, which has mutated almost as much as the genre to which they’ re identified. And while the Rolling Stones and The Beatles remain touchstones on songs like “Sugar Queen” and “Deep Is Love,” respectively, influences as diverse as Sly and the Family Stone (in the psychedelic fuzz-tones of “Daddy Long Legs”) and Latin music (“Road Dust Wheels”) also rear their heads. Literary inspirations also come into play, ranging from a character in Sylvia Plath’ s TheBell Jar depicted in as a strutting cougar in “Sugar Queen” (“She even talks dirty/When she’ s on her knees to pray”) to Tom Standage’ s A History of the World in Six Glasses, which recounts how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola have shaped culture and civilization to modern times (“Trouble Came Early”). Duende is The Band of Heathens playing to their strengths, unapologetically constructed as an old-school 10-track, two-sided vinyl album (which it will be released as, with a second disc encompassing four songs from their Green Grass EP released earlier this year). With Duende, the proof is in the results. Let them change your mind.

The Steepwater Band

Diamond Day Records is very excited to announce the release of The Steepwater Band’s 6th full-length studio album SHAKE YOUR FAITH. The LP features 11 brand new TSB tracks, and is slated for release on Friday, April 1st via Double 180 Gram Vinyl, Compact Disc and Digital Download. The album was recorded last winter at Crushtone Studios, in the shadows of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio. Shake Your Faith was produced by the band along with seasoned rock studio veteran Jim Wirt, who has also worked with the likes of Fiona Apple, Incubus and the Buffalo Killers. As with most TSB albums, the sound and songwriting on Shake Your Faith has grown and expanded, yet retained the true nature of the band. It’s the first TSB studio record in over 4 years and the first to include “new” guitarist Eric Saylors.
With the additional band member, the songwriting approach for this record was different than it was on past TSB albums, when they were a 3-piece. Singer/Guitarist Jeff Massey comments on the TSB songwriting process…“Each song was different. I had a few totally finished songs, or Tod would bring a complete piece of music that would need melody & lyrics. And there were also a bunch of other musical ideas coming from both Eric & Joe, which we would all hash out together.” Drummer Joe winters states “Everyone really brought ideas to the table, collaboratively, more so with Shake Your Faith, than with any other of our records. That really created a special vibe around the songs.”

The arctic Lake Erie air made for a secluded and quick session, as it was all recorded and mixed within 12 days. “What better circumstances to record in?” says Eric Saylors, “There weren’t any outside distractions!” The band entered the studio with a group of songs, but with very loose arrangements. Bassist Tod Bowers elaborates, “It really allowed everyone in the band to be inspired by the moment. Sonically inspired by what sounds you were hearing coming out of the speakers… what was happening in the room, musically between the 4 of us. And you can hear that in the recording.”

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