Bands to Watch #306: The Last Bison

By on Tuesday, 9th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Leigh Burnette

Chesapeake, Virginia six-piece band The Last Bison are set to release their 3rd studio album, ‘VA’ (as in the American postal abbreviation for the state of Virginia), on the 30th of September via Media House Music. The group released their first album, 2011’s ‘Quill’, independently before signing to Universal Republic Records for their 2013 release ‘Inheritance’. ‘VA’ finds The Last Bison harkening back to their earlier independence, self-producing the songs they recorded in an old A-frame cottage near southern Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp.

The sheer number of members in their band allows The Last Bison to create a uniquely lush, richly-textured sonic backdrop for its otherwise very basic folk-pop tunes. Their latest single, ‘Bad Country’ would seem to be a perfect fit for radio, with its uplifting optimism, soaring string arrangement and melodically memorable chorus, “I feel the wind blowing south again to the bad country / so it begins, we’re going down again to the bad country”. Frontman Ben Hardesty’s gritty singing voice has just the right balance of warmth and traction to make the song’s emotion feel authentic.

The true outstanding moment in ‘Bad Country’ is its anthemic and evocative bridge section, “scorched by the blazing sun / burnt to the falls we run / into the dark we dive / coming alive”. Maybe it’s my own recent move to the American Southwest, but to my ear, the backing vocals sound like eerie canyon echoes, bringing to mind imagery of treacherous mountains and rough desert terrain.

Earlier single ‘Every Time’ (which can also be found on the band’s Soundcloud page) is more traditionally folk-flavoured, but with powerful tribal percussion rhythms and strong backing vocals punctuating the verses. The insistent repeated lyrics in the chorus, “every time I look back / you were standing there / casually aware of me”, along with the dramatic and unrelenting percussion drive the song perpetually forward. The dynamic contrast and instrumental variation in the far-too-brief bridge section whets the appetite for more potential sonic brilliance on the full album.

For an even more tempting taste of what The Last Bison have to offer, check out their video trailer for ‘VA’, filmed at their rustic and secluded recording studio, just below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE-fDE0kG1w&list=UUQI6QOFCGk8QQNCaQiHLAkg[/youtube]

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