Eston and the Outs, Shelles
The Cave
Thursday, August 14 2014

Two Triangle acts that shared a bill at the Cave last week, while set to very different speeds, presented contrasting but equally compelling testimonies to the restorative power of plugging in and cranking up.

Stu Edwards, who made cracked folk records as a duo with Old Bricks, now leads a recently assembled group known as Shelles. Edwards’ rhythm guitar meshed with a solid rhythm section of bassist Chris Gerard and drummer John Jaquiss, while lead guitarist Reid Johnson of Schooner and violist Justin Blatt (Shit Horse) sent glints and shards over the top.

If remnants of the ambient textures characteristic of Edwards’ former outfit remained, here they were embodied in the swirling colorations of Blatt’s long viola lines. Otherwise, the music was very much of this earth—damaged Americana with traces of Hank Williams and Crazy Horse. Over a half-dozen songs that simmered and roared in gleaming minor keys, the low rumble of Edwards’ mournful voice leveraged the righteous weight of the music. The palette broadened from dirge to sort-of sea shanty to a stately rocker that seemed to evoke something old and benighted—the Civil War, perhaps.

Eston and the Outs do not summon thoughts of armed conflict, nor of things dark or especially distant, unless the glory days of AM radio falls into the latter category. Eston Dickinson writes songs that lead directly to the bobbing of heads and the tapping of toes, and he demonstrated a knack for doing just that on his debut EP, Knave of the Heart, released earlier this year.

The show represented a modest milestone for the band, which consists of guitarist/vocalists Mark Connor and Stu McLamb, bassist Dan Grinder, drummer Tom Simpson and Morgan Friedman, filling in ably on keyboards and backup vocals for the on-hiatus Autumn Ehinger. In the year since the band’s formation, the songs have a loose, lived-in feel and a welcome dose of added sinew. The effect of hearing the mostly languid melodies that marked Knave close up, at a good volume and under a low ceiling was far more garage rock than bedroom pop. The set’s lone cover, a twangy take on “Waiting for the Man,” took full of advantage of the three-guitar setup. The gang-vocal brio and genuine smiles of the live presentation made the band’s earworms flesh, and it was good.