MUSIC BOX: Guthrie and Irion get Centered

By on January 21, 2014
Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion
Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

It’s been a decade since husband-and-wife folk rock duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion put out their first album together. Sarah is the daughter of Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of Woody Guthrie. That namesake ties together a singular crossroad to the folk royalty’s extended family on the duo’s new release, Wassaic Way, which was produced by two members of Wilco: frontman Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Sansone. Wilco’s thread to the Guthrie legacy also extends to a pair of Mermaid Avenue albums in 1998 and 2000, in which Woody’s unfinished songs were recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Those pair of albums have been placed in a personal playlist of mine labeled “timeless.”

Indulging in strummy pop hooks and layered soundscapes, Sarah Lee and Johnny don’t play in her grandfather’s folk style, at least not on the new album. The delicate-voiced duo’s NPR session this past August featured them backed by a rhythm section and keys, reproducing studio versions of songs from Wassaic Way.

“This record is a departure from a folk duo,” Irion said, who would powwow with Tweedy and revise songs at the beginning of each recording day. “I think this is the best example we’ve been able to present that shows the many facets of what we can do. There’s loud guitars, there’s soundscapes, there’s a lushness to it, there’s a popness, an edge.”

The upcoming performance at the Center Theater will feature Sarah Lee and Johnny as a duo.

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, 7 p.m., Monday, at the Center Theater. $20.; 733-4900.

West Water Outlaws

West Water Outlaws

Western Outlaws meet Muddy Waters
From playing local house parties to racking up thousands of miles in a van they are still paying off, Boulder’s West Water Outlaws bring the heavy, tight, gritty rock and roll of The Black Keys mashed with inflections of Alabama Shakes and Iron Maiden. The band’s aggressive groove has caught on in the Front Range. It sold out the Fox Theatre multiple times before making its first stamp on the Tetons at the Trap Bar last New Year’s Eve.

Even with its recent momentum, the quartet won’t release its debut, self-titled LP until next month. The album follows two EPs in which the band overdubbed much of the tracking. The difference this time around is that they all played in one room, simultaneously, to capture the energetic vibe and the band’s quirkiness.

Three chances to catch the band on either side of the Tetons this week.

West Water Outlaws, 9:30 p.m., Friday, at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village, $6, and 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, at The Trap Bar at Grand Targhee, $10.;

Moon Taxi

Moon Taxi

From the Moon to Nashville to Garter
Intense on composition with dense layering over an indie-pop-rock foundation, Nashville’s Moon Taxi is not as electronic as the band name suggests. Its sound is reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s radio sensibility. From a batch of reviews I read from newbies that caught them at Bonnaroo on a side stage, Moon Taxi was their favorite surprise of the weekend. The band just released the EP Acoustic, a batch of six stripped-down versions of tunes from last year’s LP Mountains Beaches Cities.

“For the past couple years we’ve enjoyed playing acoustically, for videos or just for publications,” said guitarist Spencer Thomson to Paste Magazine, which is currently offering a free stream of the EP. “It’s something that we like doing, and something that our fans have started to like hearing. It’s a different side, since our live shows can be so loud and energetic. We like to also show the songs in a more simplified, pure form.”
Moon Taxi, 9 p.m., Saturday, at Pink Garter Theatre. $12 advance tickets, $14 day-of-show.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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