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Songs From Willpa Bay

Songs From Willpa Bay
(Karma Records)

Birddog is an excellent little group fronted by one Bill Santen. It's just about as straightforward as one can get, but has something undeniably well-done about it. With guest players such as Jason Loewenstein and Paul Oldham, it has a touch of name pedigree as well, but there's nothing flashy that would even indicate it's riding on such.

Paul Oldham is a player on the release, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that people who like the other work that he's been involved with (with his own group The Anomoanon and as a player on Bonnie 'Prince' Billy releases) would enjoy the music on Songs From Willpa Boy. The seven songs on the disc march along with country-tinged rock, but never twang out too hard and on the other side of things never put the pedal to the floor either. It's porch-sitting music, and fairly straightforward songs like "$100 Wedding" and "The Cities" show off some fine playing and wordcraft without resorting to flashiness in either regard.

On "Red Red Wine," I'm also reminded of work by Simon Joyner, as the song takes on the feel of sort of a cautionary tale, with a literary feel to the lyrics and coiling instrumentation that feels a little bit darker than other places on the album. Just when you think the album is getting a bit weary with the same sounds, out comes "Sycamore," with some woozy, island-touched slide guitar that makes you wonder whether B.J. Cole made a guest appearence (he didn't). It's nothing that breaks the overall feel of the album, but drops the addition of tiki torches to the front-porch feel of things. The whole release is done in just over 20 minutes, and it's just about right without much of a change in style. A nice little soundtrack to warm spring evenings.

Rating: 6.75