My #1 criteria of awesomeness when listening to a band for the first time is this: Does it shake my ass? Whether it’s garage rock, hip hop, punk rock, or jazzercize, my first impression is always painted by the brush stroke of ass-shaking.
Of course, a musical style could be such that upward/downward rump movement is a non-issue (ambient techno, 17th century pipe organ, Javanese gamelans, etc.) and I must dig deeper into my musical education to form a fair opinion. For the most part, though, genre doesn’t matter so long as my glutes get going.
The Gentle Guest’s style is hard to pin down in a simple way, as they borrow from anything that can be considered “old timey”: there’s country-folk, Appalachian bluegrass, skiffle, oompah, and trumpet-heavy carnival ditties, all distilled through a 1920s gin-soaked speakeasy and then filtered through modern-day semi-irony.
In other words, they’ve tapped into the handlebar-mustachioed Williamsburg, Brooklyn scene (except they hail from Wisconsin and look less hip than shlumpy).
So if they’re hipsterish and somewhat gimmicky, why do I like them? Because most of their tunes are catchy, have a toe-tapping rockabilly pace, and – you guessed it – shake my ass.
Half of the album have slower songs that are either very folky or pre-R&B Americana (Laughing Bells, Death She Comes, Who Is Gonna Love You, etc.), but the clean vocals and pleasant vibe help in keeping interest up while my butt rests.
Okay, to be honest, I skip those songs on subsequent listens. But the more upbeat tunes are quite good and worth checking out if you’ve ever tried absinthe or think zeppelins are the only way to travel.
Bottom Line: Old-timey Americana with modern twist that avoids some indie/hipster trappings.
Notable Tracks: Rumor Mill, Judgment, Scatter the Ashes, The Morning Star