For some musicians, I suppose, this dangerously long period of time off playing live due to COVID has led them down some strange avenues.
For some, maybe it was a good time to step away from the constant self-imposed pressure to succeed, IMMEDIATELY, and breathe.
For others, new creative vices busted out of them for no apparent reason and they ran with it – poems or drawing or photography.
Some just kept right on playing music, deep undercover in areas unknown.
Then, there are those who have sat on their hands and stared at the guitar in the corner for months, waiting for it to write its own damn song. Lethargy is a bitch.
Or you can do what Will Hatch and Company just did. Crush a ridiculously good record.
Recorded in one day ( I did say “one day”) at Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge, Mass., “Downtown” is everything I personally needed in a new recording going into the winter. The album, made up of six songs, just smells grained and layered with fleet-footed characters out for a good time, looking back on a life well-lived from all sides of the coin.
“Downtown” opens up with “They’re Red Hot,” a classic written by bluesman Robert Johnson back in 1936. The band hammers the number out convincingly with quickness and clarity, each musician playing at the top of their games, laying lumber. “Beer Bottle Blues” comes up next and you want to slug something cold and get to grooving. A man devoted to the bottle when the blues comes calling, love it or leave it. Solid, solid number.
The title cut rolls and rolls with a delicious guitar beat, harmonies and drums laid down that a Dead Head would even roll too. The song is a great ride about being on the hunt, but going into it uninspired, living downtown, giving half of what you got.
Again, the band is killing it, not wasting a note. The mix, done by Alex Allinson, is exceptional. Hatch’s voice, as always, is tight, slightly twanged but not abusive, confident as it keeps time with the rest of the band, made up of some of Concord’s leading henchmen — Eric Ober, Taylor Pearson, Brian Burnout and Joey Boots.
If you have ever heard Will Hatch’s music before, you always hope for that banjo cut, that fire popping, fingerpicking number. And there are many out there. But when they pop up unexpected, as “Waterbound” does on this record, you smile immediately. Least I do. Something about cutthroat Virginians doing anything but going home brings this record up another level.
With that said, I’m sure glad that Hatch and Company decided to use the time away from the bars to lay down some new tricks and keep the engines idling, the fingers loose, the minds occupied while mining a great message: Downtown, even if we can’t play there right now, at least we have good reason to sing about it.
And sing we shall again. Louder than ever.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org