Widow’s Week: Widowspeak

Let’s be perfectly clear. When I refer to Widowspeak, I am referring to the band and not the hairline feature. Let’s get the irrelevant part over. This is the band:


This is the hairline:A Widow's Peak Moving on.There are several bands where I claim to be an early adopter. In some cases, I’m revising history. For Widowspeak, I am not. Through some remarkable accident, I noticed them a few days after they released their first album, before I saw any kind of review. I certainly didn’t make them. Nor did I try to recruit other fans. I was just there, in the same sense that anyone with an internet connection can truly be “there”. Yes, I was an early downloader, there with exactly the right electronic credentials and the right electronic money. Of course, if they blow up scandalously, I’ll deny it all.

In any event, Widowspeak sounds a lot like a shy whispery-voiced singer/songwriter who, wisely, made it a band instead. Yes, the singing and basic rhythm guitar (Molly Hamilton) would work on its own in a folky coffee-house kind of way, but it’s that music integrated with the short blues twang riffs of the guitar (Robert Earl Thomas) that make it really effective. Since I first fell for the band, they’ve added a bassist, dropped a drummer and … well … I don’t care. They already had the core part down.

The newest album, just out, features a cover photo that suggests all sorts of fun old-timey dialog:

Almanac by Widowspeak

Almanac by Widowspeak

“Ma’am, if you’d oblige me, I’d like to begin courting you.”

“Oh my, that’s ever so thrilling … I’m not sure if I’m ready, let me lean back just a little more …”

Actually, the image is a nice metaphor for the music showing the tension between delicacy and directness. And, even though I dismissed the membership change, the less stark instrumentation of the second album, Almanac, works quite well. The new bass lines (by Pamela Garabano-Coolbaugh) add a new directness, freeing Thomas to add a bit more urgency.

With the second album, it’s not that Widowspeak is a new band, they’re just a band that’s growing into their sound. Earlier, Widowspeak had a lonely, minimalist out-on-the-prairie sound, transferred into an empty country-blues bar. Now, they sound somewhat similar, less minimalist, and with more of a college-town-on-the-prarie sound. It’s not that different, it’s just a fuller, more developed sound. The early sound was a little more distinct, but the later sound (if a second album qualifies as later) is still quite appealing.

Yeah, I was there at the start and, yeah, this time I am pretty &%@$*&$ hip!

WARNING: pronouncing “&%@$*&$” is exceedingly challenging, harder even than pronouncing “Prince logo.svg“. Please do not attempt unless you are an expert speechifier pronouncer talker.

5 thoughts on “Widow’s Week: Widowspeak

  1. I thought I’d like Widowspeak after the first time I’d seen a picture of them, as they reminded me of the album cover to Midlake’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther(renaissance fair chic). I’m also a huge fan of Midlake, cod pieces or not. After listening to their first record I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to listen a few more times. By the time I’d gotten around to possibly trading cash for vinyl, Almanac was released. I’m digging that quite a bit as well.

    I like her voice and I like the mix of folksy and bluesy. That the Almanac album cover reminds me of a hobo-esque vision/version of Buckingham/Nicks, that only entices me more. I like the idea of these two writing songs by an open fire, her playing a beat up acoustic and him frantically tuning a zither as men joust in the distance.

    Gonna have to hit up Captured Tracks for this.

    • Codpieces! Now I have to do research (really my favorite thing to do)!

      Your description of the cover is spot-on. It’s such a fascinating cover. I didn’t quite get to the zithers, but I imagined a miners-vs-cowboys gunfight for mayor’s niece’s hand, whose virtue is being protected by the maternal madam of the local bordello. Maybe I’m just being western … where there are fewer renaissance fairs.

    • My first choice was a picture of Paul Ryan, but, although I have definite political leanings (I’m a lefty), I don’t want to accidentally inject anything that ridicules politicians. They’re already good enough doing that themselves! Besides, he just hadn’t worked out enough to make the grade …

      • Feel free to skewer any politicians you like. I try to be apolitical in my posts, but when I’ve let my liberal flag fly in the past on my blog the troglodytes would crawl from their caves to leave their grunt-like responses and generally “meh” musings. The usual Socialist rant or un-American this or that. Got tired of it, so now I just pretty much stick to music or the occasional personal anecdote. Fart jokes go over well, too. Especially in this part of the country.

Am I wrong?