Bear Grass - Left

by Carrie Grayson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-10
Bear Grass - Left
Bear Grass - Left

The moment I began listening to Bear Grass, I entered a portal to an intimate space with the width and breadth of a majestic coastal mountain wilderness. Katie Hammon‘s voice washed over my ears with her nostalgic vocal remembrances that expressed her longing for another place and time. The album encompasses the beauty of her ties to the land and the loved ones of her youth, while also recognizing the instability of nostalgia and its hold. Bear Grass’ album will be released on August 10th, via Five Kill Records. The title of their upcoming release, Left, expresses this evolving transition from the power of her past in the west to her life today.

Bear Grass is an intriguing name for a band; After a bit of research, I found bear grass to be an actual living thing: wiry, long blades of grass that bloom with a tightly packed odd pom-pom floral. It is known to be one of the first plants to spring forth after a widespread forest fire. For centuries, bear grass leaves were used by Native Americans to weave baskets, and the leaves are strong and durable, especially when they dry. As I listened to the album, I sensed the band name fully captured the essence of that strength and odd beauty in musical form. Bear Grass created the album, Left, with a confidence that would surely resemble the waterproof, tightly woven bear grass baskets of the Native Americans.

Katie Hammon, the singer/songwriter lead of Bear Grass, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and at 17 she moved to upstate New York.  Throughout the album, she references the breathtaking areas of her past, fondly recalling its captivating influence on her life. Hammon is supported by her bandmates, Ian White, August Sagehorn, and Tommy Krebs. They each offer a collective soundscape that hugs the expressive, picturesque lyrics with perfection.

The opener, “Winter Caps” is a confessional song, “I have a terrible way of never saying what I want to say, in the depths of the dark I sit and wait…”. It appears to be an open admission of her fear and the need to temper the narrative to gain a bit of control. But the song’s vibe hints that this sophomore album will be emotionally different and she might be more open, authentic, and personable. From the first heart pounding drum beat to the whispery sultry vocals and guitar fuzz emphasis, the song makes a powerful statement. “Winter Caps” introduces us to the lead singer’s vulnerability, quietly working on unfolding her memories. Surprisingly, each tune thereafter blossoms quite naturally, giving us a lovely glimpse of her delicate majestic world.

Each song on the album is a collective compilation of the overall theme, but I also found each song has the strength to stand alone and can be appreciated individually. Interestingly, the album is a quick journey at only 38 minutes. Essential tracks for listening are “Unawake”, “I Began”, “Wash Over Me”, and “Snake In The Grass.” The unfolding of each song is refreshing and pure. “Sail Out” is meant for sonic exploration by closing your eyes to listen. It begins with an understated haunting fog horn like sound and Hammon’s whispering, gravelly vocals leave us with wanting more. She looks to the future with aspiration as her personal voyage moves from the expansive ocean to the comfort of the deep waters of the sound. Much to my surprise, the poetic, diary-like lyrics stand out in each song but are equally balanced with a discerning musical composition. The shoegaze indie rock of Bear Grass is highlighted by Hammons sultry pipes. Subtle guitar strums and expressive intimate vocals make each song like an unfolding of a world we each want to enter.

After leaving behind my own home in, Charleston SC to move to big city life, I can relate to her gentle tugging back to the beauty of the landscape and the people who complete her love circle. Bear Grass takes the listener on a journey of how the past can mold and form our present experiences. Time passes and things change but the strong memories can be transformational, and Hammon records them gracefully in song. Don’t we all have a memory or a moment in our life worth returning to in our mind? Bear Grass provides a brilliant musical catalyst to explore your own nostalgic journey through their impressive album, Left.

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