What began as an informal gathering has blossomed into one of Americana’s most impressive musical collectives. Taking their cues from a traditional Irish Seisiun, the six core members of Session Americana gather around a single table with an ambient mics. The set-up lends itself to a free-form and relaxed feel that lets the group swap instruments as easily as they swap songs.
Though it is easy to peg ’em as an Americana band, doing so would miss the point. The group finds the sweet spot between pop and alt country. Album opener “I Can’t Get Out” is mesmerizing piece of pop confection with a haunting melody propelled by a persistent drum beat from drummer Billy Beard. “Confessions and regrets make whispers and goodbyes,” proclaims bassist Jon Bistline before giving way to Jimmy Fitting’s sorrowful harmonica.
Each group member has a distinct personality that is reflected in their respective songs. Ry Cavanaugh contributes the alternately mournful and uplifting “You and Me” while Sean Staples’ “There I Go Again” recalls an old cowboy ballad.
The group flexes its funny bone on Dinty Child’s smile-inducing “The Drivin’.” Sean Staples’ mandolin sets the free-wheeling tone as Child proclaims, “If you’re gonna do the drivin’, I’m gonna do the drinkin; If you’re gonna do the drinkin’, baby, I’m gonna do the drinkin’ too.” Not to be outdone, Fitting’s honky-tonkin’ “Coalburner may be the only song I know that features a banjo and tuba interplay.
As one might suspect, this recording is surpassed only by their live performances. Their sold out record release party was just that, a party with highlights from and some tremendous guest covers. Jazz singer Rachael Price did Aretha Franklin proud with her powerful “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” followed by an equally impressive version of George Michael’s “Faith.” Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz silenced the crowd with Tom Waits “Lookin’ for the Heart of Saturday Night” before violating a Session rule with a take on the Grateful Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women” (See Janovitz’s chronicle of the night on his blog). Rounding out the set was former band bassist Kimon Kirk’s Americana’d version of the Prince song “Pop Life.”
Now when was the last time you heard those five songs in a row? It was certainly a first for me.
Sample and purchase Session Americana’s Diving for Gold here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.