On their fourth full-length, Nashville, Tennessee-based rock band The Lonely H deliver a ten-track, self-titled full-length, complete with a guest appearance by The Rolling Stones’ saxophonist, Bobby Keys, among others.
It is fresh, inspiring, catchy, honest, emotive and joyous from start to finish. The sound quality is also brilliant reflecting excellent production and mixing work.
The Lonely H (self-released), the follow-up to 2009’s Concrete Class (The Control Group), finds the band – Mark Fredson (vocals, keys), brothers Eric (guitar) and Johnny Whitman (bass), Ben Eyestone (drums), and newcomer Zach Setchfield (guitar) – paying homage to Tom Petty, Bog Segar, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, and Billy Joel, while also making a record that fits in nicely with current trendsetters such as Dawes, Deer Tick, Alabama Shakes, and My Morning Jacket.
Previous releases include their debut, 2006’s Kick Upstairs, 2007’s Hair, and Concrete Class, all three engineered and produced by Joe Reineke in Seattle, Washington at Orbit Audio and released on Seattle, Washington-based indie The Control Group.
“The album is self-titled because of all the records we’ve ever made, we think this is the one that represents our live show and musical allegiances the most,” comments Fredson. “This is the record where what we heard in our heads made a perfect transition onto record, and self-titling it seemed like the most simple, effective way to represent what we had created.”
Engineered and produced by Dexter Green at the Nashville-based Sealab Studios, the band took nearly a year to make the record, which was a long and often arduous journey that took longer than what they initially imagined. But, the results were worth the wait. Sharper songs and vocals, Stones-y guitar interplay, and a well-oiled rhythm section topped off with the masterful production of Dexter Green (Caitlin Rose, Derek Hoke, the Greenhornes), The Lonely H sounds worlds above their previous work.
“It’s similar in that we still are heavily influenced by the music of the 60s and 70s,” says Fredson, comparing the self-titled to their previous three records. “But, we don’t attach ourselves at the hip to it like you could say we did on our 3rd record, Concrete Class. In this case, I think the songwriting is more mature, with more attention paid to lyrical content. When writing the songs, I placed a huge emphasis on hooks and big, memorable choruses, which is something I’ve never seen through nearly as much in the past. Also, with the addition of a second guitarist, Zach Setchfield, you get a special sort of Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards guitar interplay that is hard to come by in modern music.”
Besides the guest appearance of Bobby Keys, the album features appearances by Caitlin Rose, Melissa Mathes, Margo Price, and Alex Caress (all on background vocals), horns by John Painter, and some expert key work by Jefferson Crow. With these appearances and performances, the band brings all of their hard work, dedication, and years of relentless touring together to make a record that draws inspirations from Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, and the late Gerry Rafferty, as well as The Shins, Dawes, and Arcade Fire, to name a few.
“The saxophone solo at the end of Riding the Clutch is wailed out by Bobby Keys, the Rolling Stones’ saxophonist,” comments Fredson excitedly. “That was a pretty special moment to have such a legend grace us with his musical presence on record with us.”
The record, while not entirely recorded live, has a much more live feel and, for the first time on tape, captures the band’s rawness and live energy more so than their previous releases.
“There are more live moments and takes on this record than we’ve ever done before,” recalls Fredson. “In addition to the bass being tracked live with the drums for pretty much the whole record, there are four songs where the guitars, including solos, were all tracked live along with the bass and drums. It gives you a good idea of what we sound like live and fits in nicely with the more polished recordings.”
After a year in the studio, the band is quick to point out that the record came out better than they could have imagined, something Fredson is undeniably proud of.
“I don’t think it’s vintage sounding enough to be labeled a ‘throwback record,'” says Fredson, “and I don’t think it’s Americana enough to be fully incorporated into that world. I just hope that some people will resist the urge to put a label on it and just enjoy the songs for what they are, just five guys trying to write honest music.”
The honesty comes through on each track, both musically and lyrically, with the songs chronicling dissatisfaction and emptiness, filling the voids of life in the most wholesome ways possible.
“Either you accept the fact that you’re in a place where that’s the only way to go about coping, or you see a light at the end of the tunnel where maybe you can be a better person eventually,” Fredson says of the theme running through the album. “Aside from that, almost all the relationship-based songs don’t paint the best picture of love, but the overall message is that it’s an essential part of life and I’m more than willing to take the good with the bad.”
While the guitar work may find may comparing The Lonely H to Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones, one listen to it will prove that the record can pay homage to its influences, while sounding completely contemporary and fresh as well.