- by Nathan Fidler Rating:10 Release Date:2010-02-04 Label: Self-released
“A young man’s journey East to save his brother”. That’s the story of Eastward, a concept album by Washington based band Hudson. Concept albums trouble some people; it’s no easy thing to pull off, especially if it’s the kind with a coherent plot to it. But in 2010 Hudson set themselves the challenge of writing and recording an album in just seven days.
With this meaty challenge, the grace of bands like Midlake and Bon Iver ringing loudly at the time, they actually managed to pull off a concise and thoroughly enjoyable, genuine concept album. Taking a week off in summer, packing some “rudimentary recording equipment” and setting themselves up John Boswell’s parents’ cabin in northern Idaho, they managed something special.
Each track adds something to the story, steeping the music with atmosphere and telling the story in the lyrics. A fine example of this is ‘The Cobbler’ where our hero meets a fellow traveller, a friendly old cobbler seeking work elsewhere after losing his trade. The warm accordion sums up the fireside friendship described, while there is a light hopefulness to the piano, the two making plans to find “East”.
The story itself may play out in a manner you’re familiar with, but it’s no less epic than you’d want it to be. From the bluegrass banjos on ‘Mountain Meadows’ to the lightning-strike licks of electric guitar on ‘Two Sun Mountain’, John Boswell and Will Crowley utilise an array of instruments to tell a story with just the right amount of detail.
For example, on the aforementioned ‘Two Sun Mountain’, the battle of hero and his brother’s captors isn’t described in a laborious and lengthy manner, you merely hear the whipping wind and the guitars, painting the backdrop for your imagination to fill in the blanks of the snowy mountain showdown. Challenge yourself to listen to ‘Seven Arrows’ and not feel the impending doom and grief, too (or even to not well up a bit).
It’s such a well realised piece of music and storytelling as a whole, and it’s unbelievable that it only took seven days to craft what is a relatively unknown album. Despite being self-released eight years ago, Boswell says that it has “had a surprising amount of staying power”, showing why they decided to give the whole thing another stab with a different story for their second album Crimson.
A quick update on Hudson since that second album in 2012: Boswell and Crowley still collaborate, just in a different capacity. This album was more of an experiment, something which clearly helped them to capture what is testament to their abilities as musicians and storytellers. Boswell says of a possible third Hudson album: “If there is a Hudson 3, I think it will end up being more experimental than the first two.” This with an eye to having had time to bring fresh ideas and approaches to their music.
Beautifully delivered and with gorgeous orchestration of an array of instruments, it’s a wonder that more bands don’t shut themselves off in a cabin to smash out albums. You can find both their concept albums to download on bandcamp.