What does it mean to be a wandering troubadour in 2014? Believe it or not, sometimes it means riding the rails, just like in the old days. Sam Doores spent a restless childhood traveling with his family between San Francisco, Washington and Texas; his mother's copy of Woody Guthrie's book Bound For Glory convinced him to try the life of a modern-day hobo , eventually settling in New Orleans. The sound he's cultivated with his bandmates in the Deslondes is streaked with history's dust. But the Deslondes are also wanderers in the virtual sense – deft assemblers of a sound that traverses decades and styles with humble grace.
The Deslondes' new album is due out June 9 on New West Records.
Courtesy of the artist
Doores often stands in the center of the circle he's made with his bandmates, but the Deslondes are a cooperative. Riley Downing and Cameron Snyder were rising troubadours on their own before throwing in with Doores. All of the band members sing at times, and share songwriting duties, trading off instruments when the tune calls for it. This easy camaraderie helps the Deslondes avoid the stilted quality that can afflict young artists mining specific roots traditions. In concert, the group establishes a connection with its audience that gets people dancing in pairs and threatening to jump onstage and sing backup. On record – the Deslondes' debut album is due from New West Records on June 9 – the sound is more polished, showing the players' craft and deep historical knowledge while remaining spontaneous.
"Fought the Blues and Won" offers a great example of the band's easy feel. It's rooted in the blues and in the prodigal twang of great honky-tonkers like Lefty Frizzell, but the song never gets weighed down by these touchstones. It's a ramble, a boast about resilience that's more sly than earnest. A smoking pedal steel solo from John James captures the tension beneath the casual cool the vocals maintain. There's a sense that the blues could throw another left hook at these boys at any moment. But if that happens, they'll definitely swing back.