Reviews:: The Spares Beautiful and Treacherous Thing

I’ll be honest. I was going to review this record on Sunday, but I thought that tying into the Chicago Superbowl craze would make sense. Being from Chicago, it made sense to talk about the Spares on the day after the Superbowl.

If the Bears lost – which I hoped they did, as Grossman is a disgrace and I believe you should never win a championship in spite of an obvious weakness – I could say, well at least something enjoyable comes from Chicago. If they had won, well, let’s just say I banked on the fact they wouldn’t.

So I’ll get on with the review. The Spares are a duo from Chicago that fall into that category of Dixieland pop; they rely on a constant twangy but ever changing style to create a surprisingly accessible slice of pop music. Initially, when I heard a few tracks from their latest record – Beautiful and Treacherous Thing – I was blown away by Jodee Lewis and her vocal melodies. After hearing the full record, I realize that this duo plays off each other and instrumentalist and backup vocalist Steve Hendershot is essential to the strength of the songs.

His finger picking and harmonies pave the windy road that Jodee’s vocals traverse across. The duo gets compared to names like Krauss, Gillian Welsh and Mindy Smith a lot (we did it), but that forces you to judge the band against an abnormally high bar. While those artists tend to deliver epics of emotionally invested music, the Spares seem more light-hearted. It’s an approach that makes these songs so enjoyable. I don’t find the need to be challenged by every CD I listen to, in fact, I rather enjoy the Spares approach of delivering great lyrics over top of enjoyable arrangements.

The album starts with two of the strongest songs – Waiting for the Smoke to Clear and You and the Moon – and you get a great feel of the band’s ability to combine sounds and vocal lines. The upbeat tempo twang really grabs you. You are two songs into the record before you have a chance to think, so when the band slows to the delicate finger picked love song – Chapel of the Winding – you are curious to see what other styles the band can deliver. The chemistry of the band is shown off well on this track. Steve’s sparse riffs and backing vocals lets Jodee’s voice take the lead, and you realize the band has the power to play either tempo well.

This continues of Cigarette Song, a folky Dixieland ditty before the band delivers a rollicking performance on the Henderson penned Feels like Love. The jammy, rock lick shows another variation of bluegrass, including a foot stomping back porch solo that fits perfectly at the close of the song. They even get a bit southern/bluesy on some numbers, like the dark Eulogy, but never stray too far from what they do best.

The gentle acoustic riff of Down in Memphis starts my favorite cut on the record. Hendershot again is willing to play the supporting actor, as his guitar work pairs with Jodee’s vocals on this radio friendly track. As the song progresses, Steve adds some finger picking at jus the right time to keep the song moving, without detracting from Jodee’s lovely falsetto.

This record is one that won’t deliver you hook after hook, but will leave you interested and fits well into a morning routine or a country drive. If you are a fan of the Be Good Tanyas, you should definitely check out the Spares.

MP3:: Down in Memphis


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