Artist of the Week: Heartless Bastards

It looks like it’s shaping up to be a good year for the Heartless Bastards.  By no means a new band, they are receiving a new amount of hype for their latest effort, The Mountain, which was just released on Fat Possum.  Heartless Bastards is primarily the project of Erika Wennerstrom, the only constant member of the band since its inception in 2003.

If you like classic rock and women who kick serious rock and roll butt, then Heartless Bastards are the band for you.  Think of the Heartless Bastards’ label mates, The Black Keys, but with fewer guitar solos.  Erika Wennerstrom has a voice that is surprisingly mature for someone in their late twenties.  It sounds like she grew up listening to a combination of Janis Joplin and Nico songs, sitting in her bedroom window with the record player spinning, staring out the window smoking, and thinking about why there was no female Roger Daltry.  She then decided to take up guitar and keep going until she plugged this hole.

On The Mountain, their third full-length album and most focused work to date, Wennerstrom once again delivers earthy, southern rock that all too frequently gets left out of the indie-rock milieu.  Take a quick glance at the tour dates; they mostly skip the Northeast in favor of southern and western locations.  It’s incredibly refreshing to hear a band that isn’t interested in current trends or fads- just a plain ‘ole guitar, drums, and bass.  The fact that they’re from Ohio instead of Brooklyn somehow makes them seem more authentic.

The first half of the album is jam-packed with these reinvented classic rockers.  The album starts to vary from big, sweeping rock songs on the seventh track, “Wide Awake.”  The vocals are eerily echoey as the guitar mimics the melody.  The chord progressions are unsettling and rambling, which is a wonderful variation on a theme.  I don’t know if I actually like this track, but I like the risks it takes.  The album then takes a sudden turn into “So Queit,” a gentle ballad, that shows off the full range of Wennerstrom’s voice.  Its tenderness is refreshing amidst the first six songs of the album.  Then, “Had To Go,” begins with a scant acoustic guitar drone and rolling banjo.  As soon as the melancholy fiddle comes in, it’s apparent that this is the raw feeling that makes this album stand out.  The seven minute song ends with a beautiful, wordless jam.  It’s interesting that one of the high points on The Mountain is absent of any vocals.

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities where Heartless Bastards are touring, make sure to check them out.  If you don’t, then you can see them on David Letterman on February 10th.

-Madalyn

Live!

2/11 – Gravity Lounge – Charlottesville, VA
2/12 – Bottletree – Birmingham, AL
2/13 – Government Street Grocery Club – Ocean Springs, MS
2/14 – The Last Concert Cafe – Houston, TX
2/26 – Sam’s Burger Joint – San Antonio, TX
2/27 – Longhorn Saloon – Ft. Worth, TX
2/28 – Hailey’s – Denton, TX
3/15 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
3/16 – Libery Hall – Lawrence, KS
3/17 – Cain’s Ballroom – Tulsa, OK
3/21 – House of Blues – Houston, TX
3/23 – Lyric Oxford – Oxford, MS
3/25 – Madison Theater – Covington, KY
3/27 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
3/28 – Trocadero – Philadelphia, PA
3/29 – Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA
3/30 – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
3/31 – Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
4/1 – St. Andrews Hall – Detroit, MI
4/2 – Turner Hall – Milwaukee, WI
4/3 – The Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
4/4 – Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MN
4/7 – The Warehouse – Calgary, Alberta
4/8 – The Starlight Room – Edmonton, Alberta
4/10 – The Plaza Nightclub – Vancouver, British Columbia
4/11 – Crocodile Cafe – Seattle, WA
4/13 – Berbati’s Pan – Portland, OR
4/15 – The Boardwalk – Sacramento, CA
4/16 – Slims – San Francisco, CA
4/21 – The Clubhouse – Tempe, AZ
4/22 – Launchpad – Albuquerque, NM
4/23 – Black Sheep – Colorado Springs, CO
4/24 – Gothic Theater – Denver, CO
4/25 – Beaumont Club – Kansas City, MO
4/28 – Granada Theatre – Dallas, TX
4/29 – Antones – Austin, TX
5/2 – State Theatre – Saint Petersburg, FL
5/3 – The Social – Orlando, FL

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One response to “Artist of the Week: Heartless Bastards

  1. I’m undecided on these guys so far… not sure if I dig her voice… might check them out at the Varsity though… Thanks for putting the review up!

    David

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