The Lumineers (from the album The Lumineers) - For a three piece, The Lumineers have sharp angles and quick turns embedded into their tunes. The traditional make up of acoustic bands like The Lumineers brings to mind front porch jams, late night campfires and coffeehouse open mics. The Lumineers join acts like Mumford & Sons, The Coal Porters, and The Wild Rumpus who make use of instrumentation that has a history, and match it with songs whose feel and form are stamped with today’s date.
The Lumineers self-titled Dualtone album effort pumps blood into the heart of each song. That fire and passion has always found good buddies with acoustic back-up. Singer Wesley Shultz has a shaky quaver hard-wired into his delivery. That vocal quality works perfectly with the hard-edged arrangement and those determined beats and concise, to-the-point note patterns. “Flapper Girl” lets each tambourine hit, every piano note, and every drum beat keep its individuality.
Wesley and bandmate Jeremiah joined forces in NYC around 2002. Writing songs and playing live took the two men away from the grief they experienced with the loss of Wesley’s long-time friend and Jeremiah’s brother, Josh, who they lost to a drug overdose. The duo moved from New York with suitcases and instruments packed for travel, and ultimately landed in Denver. Getting the bigger sound they sought led to a craigslist ad for a cellist, and Neyla Pekarek was there to answer the call. Neyla’s cello softened the sound by warming the sharp point. She expanded her playing to include mandolin and piano to further stretch their new sound.
The Lumineers’ song, “Ho Hey” has climbed up the Top 40 chart far enough to become a bona fide hit. Typically, roots bands are not overwhelming the Pop charts, and having a song take off without compromising the sound or delivery is to be applauded. “Ho Hey” does not do a makeover for chart heights. It’s success points to an audience in search of good music played by real instruments, not the product of studio wizardry. The Lumineers play a real sound. It is tough to front with an acoustic band whose organic playing leaves itself open for bruises and bumps.
The album opens with “Flowers in Your Hair” with a hushed drum beat sounding as if it was being phoned in from the next room. A quick-paced riff then takes charge. The vocals never rush to keep up, and the multitude of words pour out with no hurry. The harmonies ride comfortably over the freight train clack of toe taps. “Charlie Boy” has a hill country lilt that talks of war in a sepia-toned tint, “Stubborn Love” strips down to fiddle and guitar to make its case, letting a random beat keep it honest and the rhythm takes hold mid-song and never looks back, while “Dead Sea” lets the band don a singer/songwriter cloak for the intensity of its story line and killer lyrical hooks.
The Lumineers have achieved success in a form of music not known for its triumphs. It is good for the rest of the Roots community that one of its first ambassadors into Top 40 brings their A game. DANNY McCLOSKEY/RA