Formed in Maryland but now based in Portland, Pretty Gritty are Blaine Heinonen and Sarah Wolff, their name nothing to do with the website for women into outdoors adventuring, or there again possibly not, who make music in the timeless male/female acoustic Americana duo mould, the album (they released their eponymous debut in 2012 and the Lonely Road EP in 2016) a mix of original material and two covers and, the pair both sharing lead vocal duties and duetting.
They open with a cover that pretty much tells you where they're coming from, trading verses on Tim Hardin's 'If I Were A Carpenter', but doing away with the familiar jangly troubadour accompaniment to feature the vocals (his gritty, hers pretty) backed by just a minimal guitar drone. The second non-original nods to another 60s influence with Sarah taking lead on the Everlys' classic 'All I Have To Dream' that is slow and, well, dreamy, angelic cooing backing vocals and wistful twangy guitar adding extra colour as it conjures thoughts of the last slow dance under the glitterball at the High School Prom.
There's a third not penned by the duo, sung by Heinonen, the stride along beat 'Every Road', a catchy country number with a vague Celtic feel, was written by Australian singer-producer Ilan Kidron, Paul Bouno, an in-house producer-writer at the duo's management company, and Billy Falcon's daughter Rose.
Everything else is their own work, each taking lead on their contributions, first up being Heinonen's uptempo strummed verse trading drowning our sorrows 'Bone To Pick' with Brandon Snellings on mandolin, Bryan Daste's upright bass, steady drum beat, brushed snares and strong echoes of Johnny and June. Written by Wolff, harmonising with herself, the I'm unravelling-themed 'Coming Loose' is another loose-limbed country shuffle, tinted with a hint of blues and with a moody middle eight anchored by a bass drum thump that for some reason put me in mind of The Go Gos.
Not a Rose Royce cover, 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' is another Heinonen song, a gently strummed acoustic number about the debris of a failed relationship. He has two further credits, the mandolin-accompanied 'Sunday Road' with its childhood reminiscences of family and home and the similarly jogalong styled 'Come What May'.
Wolff provides the remaining four songs, the Songs Our Daddy Taught Us era Everlysish 'Something's Gotta Give' an infectiously simple acoustic folksy shuffling strum about a town in decline and a relationship coming apart at the seams with more twangsome guitar and Daste providing pedal steel solo. On 'Save Yourself The Trouble', a slow soulful sway, she doesn't even wait for the inevitable, advising her lover to cut his losses and get out before the hurt comes.
The closing two tracks are her's too: 'The Town', a dry-desert feel number with lonesome resonant guitar that mines a darker side to Blaine's earlier going home song with lyrics about how it's "time to lay her child's bones to rest", and the hauntingly beautiful 'The Voice', a close harmony world weary duet about chasing "scraps of what could be", burning out, crashing to earth and letting go "this tired old life of mine."
"Is it time to let this go?", she muses. Scratch that, this is just getting started and the future is luminous.
|The Often Herd: The Often Herd||Joe Wilkes: Japanese Elvis|
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