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The Bear and The Bison (from the album The Bear and The Bison
The Bear and The Bison (from the album The Bear and The Bison available on Vagabonds Tunes Records)
The Bear and The Bison round up an all-star cast of upstate New York musicians for their self-titled debut release. Featuring members of Uncle Ben’s Remedy, Folkfaces, The Brothers Blue, and Who Can Sleep, The B&B create an early, Uncle Tupelo style of Americana with a heavy dose of retro, lo-fi, Velvet Underground panache. Led by husband-and-wife songwriting team, Mark and Courtney Lennon, The Bear and the Bison focus on unhealthy relationships and the lengths we go through to keep them.
“Misery” sets the tone for the self-titled album with the opening line ‘I don’t know why she asks me things, when she knows I’m always wrong’. Despite the sardonic lyrics, the song has a cheery undertone that suggests things aren’t really as bad as they seem. Acoustic and steel guitar join forces to provide a sepia toned Piedmont Blues timbre to the song. Lennon’s laid-back voice captures the earthy, bourbon laced sound of Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo and Rhett Miller of Old 97s. Though recorded in New York, the lyrics, vocals, and arrangement would be right at home on a Texas road house jukebox.
The gentle Country/Folk rhythms of “She’s Cold” help tell the story of a man who leaves warm and sunny L.A. for his lover, only to be dumped in the frigid northeast like so many feet of lake effect snow. “Screen Fever” is a Country/Grunge fusion about the negative effects of compulsive cell phone scrolling on relationships. “Country Mood” is a classic Honky-Tonker that expands on the dangers of cell phones, with ex’s lurking on every social media feed. “It’s All Downhill” captures the moment after love’s fiery flame starts to fade. The relationship may or may not work out, but the initial spark is gone. Remembering that first spark, Mark Lennon sings, ‘I was in the Brian Wilson T-shirt that caught your eye, and we would dance around to Van. It all seemed so simple, just frozen in time. We couldn’t recreate it if we tried’. Saloon style piano chords help create a nostalgic feel that reinforces that snapshot in time quality. “Kind Hearted Man” is a “Blue Suede Shoes” inspired Rockabilly tale about a woman who finally gets what she wants only to realize that’s not what she wanted at all. “Last Try” has a Velvet Underground vibe as Mark Lennon sings ‘reading The Stranger and The Fall, but she don’t understand nothing at all… life ain’t the books you read, this is my last try’. A stripped-down Rock’n’Roll backbeat, and mixed gender chorus add to the brooding, Greenwich Village feel. After all the ups and downs, (and additional downs) of relationships, The Bear & The Bison still aren’t willing to give up without a fight. “Woman of Mine” is an Outlaw Country tale of revenge visited upon anyone who dares stand between our hero and his dysfunctional lover. Summing up the situation, Mark Lennon sings, ‘when I get to that guy, he’s gonna hear from me. Might bury his body down in Joshua Tree. My woman’s cruel and evil, but that ain’t nothing compared to me’.
After deep-diving in dysfunction, The B&B come up for air on the breezy, Bluegrass-tinged Country/Folk of “Got to Make These Times Better”. After analyzing broken relationships from every angle, the band realizes it’s up to us to fix our own mess. And even if we don’t know where to start, they remind us that, “life’s always better when you dance.” That silver lining aside, The Bear and The Bison explore our strange human condition where we are most drawn to the things that hurt us. Telling that tale with the classic rhythms laid down by Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings, creates a palpable link to Country’s storied past. Adding their own DIY Alt-Rock sensibilities makes that well-worn tale seem fresh and new. Like their animal namesakes, The Bear and The Bison roam the American musical heartland unfazed by modern conventions.
Listen and buy the music of The Bear and The Bison from the B&B website
For more information head on over to The Bear and The Bison website
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