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Roselit Bone

Roselit Bone's Apocalyptic Western Album Release

Roselit Bone

The Jackalope Saints, Chuck Westmoreland

Wed, May 31

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Doug Fir Lounge

Portland, OR

$8.00 - $12.00

This event is 21 and over

Roselit Bone
Roselit Bone
A pandrogyne cowboy, mascara smeared, guns blazed out, lies drunk under a starless sky. A young boy sits under a blasted tree with a bone and a wire, numbed by a nameless catastrophe. White-robed dancers leap and crawl around a fire, celebrating a hungry god that was once a brand name.

It’s hard to listen to Roselit Bone’s upcoming release, Blister Steel, without creating movies in your head, without bleak and beautiful images invading your consciousness. It’s a deeply immersive record – one that leaves you changed.

A native of Southern California, Joshua McCaslin formed the band in Portland, Oregon in 2013: first as a duo with drummer Ben Dahmes, then a trio, and eventually a 9-piece ensemble of flute, trumpets, pedal steel, accordion, violin and more. Josh himself is a triple threat: a versatile and accomplished guitarist, a powerful writer of vivid nightmare-poetry, and a singer unique in his ability to croon like Marty Robbins, bellow like Nick Cave, and scream, grunt and wail like a defiant, wounded animal.

If 2014’s self-released debut Blacken & Curl set the tone, Blister Steel refines and expands it. Josh’s lyrics are crueler and darker, the arrangements bigger and more ambitious, the vision and scope blown up into a panoramic, foreboding landscape that looks disturbingly familiar. The grandeur of Mexican ranchera and the innocence of Hollywood’s singing cowboys belie a savage, dystopian take on hot-rod rockabilly, surf music, Tex-Mex, and post-punk. The ten-piece band moves deftly from seething minimalism, to lush countrypolitan walls of sound, to unhinged noise.

On the title track, nimble minor-key fingerpicking weaves through what sounds like a choir of Benedectine monks until horns break like a red sun over the song. Josh’s vocals throughout showcase his range: operatic keening, moaning, whispering, screaming – warning of a vaguely terrifying figure:

“What I saw down there, I do not know/but I know that it was real/the king came drifting through the snow/with eyes as blue as blister steel.”

On “Glint” a Latin bassline whirls us across a deserted dance floor. Rimshots echo against the walls. Shards of Barry Walker Jr’s pedal steel fly like shrapnel as the song hits its ferocious, orgiastic crescendo. “Leech Child” is a lonely waltz with tremulous electric guitar and flautist/vocalist Valerie Osterberg’s harmonies woven through spaces as empty as the Oregon desert, with lyrics that might describe a future cult in a world drained of hope. “Tie-Dye Cowboy” adds a moment of levity – an homage to the cosmic cowboy scene of the 1970s – while “My First Name” sounds like a lost track of primitive rockabilly as Joshua exhorts and shouts like a preacher who moonlights as a bareknuckle boxer. “Where Our Light Casts Doubles,” casts a hazy spell of 1950s balladry, even as Joshua sings of being a “cold motherfucker” taking a walk through the hills to escape his lover and her “snoring, shitting dog.” Beauty and ugliness are inseparable on Blister Steel.

The vision of Roselit Bone is not an easy one to stomach. It’s a world of abuse, violence, environmental and personal degradation. It’s a world that closely resembles our own, and if some of Joshua’s lyrics about nightmarish authority figures precede the current political catastrophe, it makes them all the more remarkable. If Blister Steel is the canary in our coal mine, it sings a dark and beautiful song.

“’Blister Steel’ is a runaway success … an unnerving set of booze-soaked, blood-curdling hellfire hymns that sound like very few other bands anywhere”

“Like Marty Robbins meets The Cramps, or a Goblin sountrack to a spaghetti western, ranchero fantasy meets greased up country in a magical reality.”

“Blending the cinematic sweep of Ennio Morricone with the twang of classic country and a sense of creeping malice that would make Nick Cave giddy. Bring water. You’re going to feel parched.”

“On top of their mournful, dusty country, they layer lyrics that are often sick and upsetting, delivered without tongue in cheek or wink of the eye, but with a wail and snarl that makes you wonder how long it’s going to be before they do something really bad.”
The Jackalope Saints
The Jackalope Saints
Duplicitous, the wilderness speaks half-truths; it calls and goes silent. The Jackalope Saints' stories are similarly mysterious. From the experience of singer-songwriter Clinton Herrick, the Saints' music preaches the folklore of Wild America. Herrick's imagery is elemental—wind and stone, bone and dust—but the lyrical detail guards more than it reveals. Sun-bleached teeth and a shadowed gunshot grow large in the listener's mind. The imagery, however, only distracts from questions of substance: who, when, and where? But these are tall tales, ghost stories, the true experience of which cannot be found in fact.

Herrick has been drawn to this folkloric imagery since his youth.

“My Grandmother gave me a jackalope postcard when I was ten [years old] . . . It's still in my guitar case.”

Traditionally associated with the American West, the mythical jackalope can mimic any sound. Cowboys around their campfires, echoes, would claim to hear the creatures singing songs back to them in the cowboys' own voices. It is these uniquely American legends that continue to fascinate Herrick and inspire the Saints' music.

"Americana explorations come to life with a musical support group of banjos, mandolins, fiddles, slide guitar, and more, echoing the gritty wilds of the once-unknown West. The band's live shows are bona fide hootenannies."

The Portland Mercury
Chuck Westmoreland
Chuck Westmoreland
Eight years ago you would’ve seen Chuck Westmoreland onstage, a busted sprinkler head of awkward and endearing gyrations, gesticulations, and sweat who came, as he put it then, to “rock [your] balls off.”
Eight years ago he would’ve been preaching psycho-sexual pop songs with his band, The Kingdom. Singing conceptually interconnected, insanely catchy nuggets about cars, gender metamorphosis, Dog Day Afternoon, and—somehow—Johnny Unitas in a warbling falsetto caught somewhere between the pearly gates and a truck stop.
Eight years ago. Before he walked away from it all. Before marriage. Before his wife’s cancer fight brought him to his knees. Before the birth of his first child chiseled away whatever remained of that almost-famous man that used to bounce around under the spotlight.
Nearly a decade later, Westmoreland returns with his self-titled solo debut, a powerful album that takes his gift for character sketches and deconstructions and turns the focus squarely, and unblinkingly, on himself.
Chuck Westmoreland is not only a history of his eight-year rock ‘n’ roll sabbatical, but a departure from rock ‘n’ roll entirely. Westmoreland’s work with The Kingdom—hailed by everyone from Spin and The Onion’s A.V. Club to Portland’s dueling alt-weeklies—existed in an ephemeral flight of pop fancy. Chuck Westmoreland has four appendages firmly planted in the unforgiving muck and mire of real life.
“The songs are about the lyrics more than anything else,” Westmoreland explains. “I’m trying to tell personal stories that reveal something terrible, familiar, and hopeful to the listener.”
Owing more to Gordon Lightfoot than Guided by Voices, Chuck Westmoreland shears away all outré influences for a singer-songwriter’s lunch pail full of bare-knuckle blood and guts. Much like Springsteen turned his back on street-racing anthems for noir Heartland story telling on Nebraska, Westmoreland gets to the gritty business of life and death and loss on his solo debut. These aren’t songs about leaving and transformation; these are songs about sticking around in the face of tragedy, setting your feet, and fighting. Bones are cracked open and marrow spooned out with dirty fingers: the good, the bad, and the frustratingly in-between.
Sometimes that darkness is lathered up with sweet, warm harmonies, and slow-rolling rhythms (“Pattern in the Blood”), sometimes it’s laid bare in a creaking, near death rattle (“The Clouds Beyond Us Carry Rain”)…and sometimes it’s clubbed over the head with a beer bottle in the heat of a honky-tonk brawl (“Satin”). It’s a riveting journey that at once pulls influences from the high water mark of late-70s singer-songwriters, while sounding in narrative lockstep alongside the current stars of country’s literary revival.
“All these songs are about the character trying to recover something that has been taken from them,” Westmoreland says. “Or the character trying to understand some horrible thing they’ve been given to deal with.”
In Westmoreland’s case, dealing with horrible things means releasing one of the best albums of the year.