For those who have seen the Heartless Bastards live at in-stores and local clubs and love their tough woman-led, riff-bruised blues-rock, their stint opening for the Avett Brothers this Friday, August 28 will be special: Their soaring songs should echo through the Paramount Theater with astonishing results.
Returning again on tour (do they ever stop touring?) for The Mountain, an underrated, really-grows-on-you collection of anthems bolder and more honest than indie rock can usually bare, Erika Wennerstrom delivers clarity-driven songs about compromise, sorrow, and mindfulness like spitfire. After a few listens, compelling imagery enfold sin her punchily strummed and feedback-infused narratives, from the clarity-seeking lamentations of “I Could Be So Happy,” to the brawling bar-rock of “Early In The Morning.” Title title track as well mesmerized the audience at the last Sonic Boom live freebie show a few months ago.
This is adult rock, no matter how much axe-noise Wennerstrom makes on top of Doni Schroader’s fully-attacked drums or Billy White’s grinding bass (and abuse of other instruments, including banjo). Friends of mine have been disappointed by Heartless Bastards’ recorded output, and the only reason I can hear might be because this isn’t artful puffery or occluded pretension. This is sublime, often ennui-soaked diarizing forcing a connection with an audience which Wennerstrom may be overestimating in its emotional intelligence. The subdued lyrical tone beneath the hard rock frenzy and the subtleties of her songwriting don’t pander, either. Simple fact is, this probably isn’t immediately appealing rock music till they play it live, and that’s when everyone is surprised that a couple of cursory listens to their latest record hadn’t prepared them for the Heartless Bastards energy.
Still, the buzz keeps growing, and even those who scowl or “don’t feel it” right away will probably be stoked to hear Wennerstrom and her band send it out all over the Paramount next Friday night.