It's worth a pause when comparing a band to the polarizing SoCal band Sublime. Love 'em or hate 'em, that recognizable style, with all its upstrokes and catchy lyrics, has crept its way into bands' sounds since Sublime became popular in the mid-1990s. That brings me to Whitefish's Jameson and The Sordid Seeds. Let me be clear: They share as many similarities with Sublime as differences, and that's a good thing.
The band offers a dose of Black Keys and a dash of Dispatch. It's not a very complicated algorithm; just take the pop narratives of Dispatch, the blues growl, riffs and harmonica of the Keys and the infectious upbeat rhythms and soul of Sublime. The levels of each differ song to song, the same way you change the bass and treble equalizer on iTunes between genres. It makes for a pretty mellow mash-up.
The Seeds were a bit brash in waving the flag of their reggae heroes on their first album, Two Shoes in Mary's Basement. But that was so 2010. On their sophomore album released this month, I Walk Down Your Street, the reggae influences fade. Here, it seems, they've developed their own sound. Brent Jameson goes full throttle as the funky, loud bluesman against a backdrop more inland than beachfront. The growth is so obvious it sounds like they skipped past several painful musical pitfalls, straight to senior year.
Jameson, who also plays guitar, got his first Fender Strat at age nine. "I was a closet kid," he says. "I wouldn't leave my room, that's all I did. I grew up on the Black Crowes, Sublime, Dave Matthews and Stevie Ray.... But now we've really come into our own."
Well past the nine-year-old loner, Jameson and the rest of the band have played stages in Austin, Chicago and the biggest cities of the West. Forming at the start of 2010, they quickly gained a following in Whitefish and even got a mention in Relix magazine.
During two months on the road last year, the band learned that getting an audience isn't as easy as showing up and playing loud.
"In the beginning you'll play the seven shows that nobody's there, and then you'll have one good one," Jameson says. "If I can reach 30 people on [our next tour], if they buy the new album, well, that's more than sittin' at my house."
I Walk Down Your Street took a year to record in the studio, and the patience shows. The album is polished and widely accessible in its seamless blend of genres. The record also goes beyond the band lineup of Sean Cooksey on bass, producer Marco Forcone on drums and percussion, Craig Barton on organ, keys and backup vocals and Leonard Govenettio on harmonica. Jameson folded in nearly 30 other Flathead Valley musicians to fill out the sound. Even the Crown of the Continent Choir shows up on two tracks to create a gospel quality. Strong vocals from Alison Cookesy and, on the striking "Tell Me Why," from Emily Clark, balance Jameson's powerful croon. Then some skillful banjo by John Dunnigan appears out of nowhere for the prerequisite bluegrass song, "In This Life." But they're miles from Kentucky on the rest of the album.
There's a timeless thread running through I Walk. It's the organ, the harmonica and the simple stories told with genuine soul. It's a real conglomeration of American musicbluesy but no bleeding heart, rock and roll but less thrashing. It's a big record for a small-town band and it needs to be. Jameson's not going to settle on the same old routines and comparisons for anything.
"I want to break this record," Jameson says. "That's my life goal for the next two years. Getting this record into the hands of an indie label and being an opener."
Jameson and The Sordid Seeds play the Great Northern in Whitefish Thu., Dec. 27, at 10 PM. Price TBA.