Artist: Creature and the Woods
Title: Rise
Release Date: July 5, 2017
Label: Blind Owl Records

The tale of “Creatures’” formation informs their debut album; it serves as a skeleton key to unlock the cohesiveness of their music.

Once upon a time, in Bankers Hill, there was a local watering hole known as the Tin Can Alehouse. If you weren’t privy to the existence of this place, know it was an adored and intimate music venue owned and operated by Justin Rodriguez (Counterfit/Silverbird). It was also a home to Justin’s “Country Club”, an “exclusive” club, one filled with many of San Diego’s local folk legends. Creature’s singer Roger Molina caught ear of these gatherings and began to shuffle his way in. He recalls being impressed: “It was a real club, even though I was friends with Justin, I had to go there six weeks straight before they would even let me play.”  Incubated by the Alehouse, Justin encouraged his friend to pursue Creature and the Woods as a new musical incarnation and, soon after, joined on bass and backup vocals. From this partnership a bond formed – and what formed drew some of San Diego’s most talented and accomplished musicians. On lead guitar and pedal steel Daniel Cervantes (Howlin Rain/Mrs. Henry), on drums Chad Lee (The Silent Comedy/Mrs. Henry), and if that wasn’t enough, Jody Bagley (JB and the Movers) joins them on keys.

Creature and The Woods’ debut album Rise is a compelling tale that takes place in the American landscape, a place where prayers are made in churches and at the tops of mountains, and where whiskey-fueled card games and tumbling dice reverberate in derelict saloons. It’s a place where wars have been won and lost over dreams, riches, and powerful territories that continue to inspire the American imagination. Historic but modern, expansive yet immersive, Rise draws from the same well as many Americana albums have before it. However, unlike those who’ve emulated that tradition to a T, Creature and The Woods succeeds in baptizing itself under a new vision.

Two songs on the album, “Holy Hell” and “Gone, Gone, Gone,” largely define the musical and emotional scope of the album. On one side the music is divided into somber folk ballads like “Holy Hell,” expressing the agony of frustration and the battle for a hopeful resolve. It’s a beautiful song to mourn to — a song you’d play for companionship when you’d lost someone you loved, or fallen on bad times. On the other hand, songs like “Gone, Gone, Gone” drunkenly waltz into your ears with a confident strut, pick up the pace, and deliver a jolt of rock and roll to the vein. Whether at the extremes of these musical boundaries or somewhere in between, Creature and The Woods exemplify a sense of brotherhood, a masterful ear for sharing the lanes of musical expression, and an impeccable ability to craft a song.

The crescendo to this album and certainly its most compelling song is the final track “Rise.” In this song, Roger Molina poetically recounts a Kumeyaay (Barona band) ceremony that was held commemorating the death of his father. The kick drum and vocal introduction transports the listener to the ritual, where the family and loved ones of the departed dance and sing to lift the spirit to its resting place. Roger describes this final hour before the ceremony was completed: “13 hours we wept, weak we grew from the dancing, but this is our task, take up your axe, searching for blue in the that sky, red.” This song is the embodiment of Creature’s baptized vision. It’s a choir of voices, adjoined in ceremony to call out to this manifestation of America – in doubt, in agony, in loss, and in belief of a celebration that can lift our spirits and resolve us to peace. “The holy hour can only be known as now,” Roger howls feverishly “we’ve got so long till mountainside gives away to sun, all you singers dancers, rise, everyone.”

Creature and The Woods’ vinyl release is this Saturday, July 22, at The Casbah, with Heavy Guilt, Taken By Canadians, and Mike Pope. Tickets can be found here.

 

Review by: Rory Morison