A couple of weeks ago I posted a song off of Hoots and Hellmouth‘s new album, Salt, with the promise of a review within the next week. Well that didn’t happen, obviously, and now I find myself listening and writing with less than 24 hours before it is officially released. The song, “Why Would You Not Want To Go There” stood out to me as a really well-written tune, and I knew I wanted to hear the rest of the album. What I didn’t realize is that there are a good number of songs on Salt that are better than that lead single.
Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Hoots and Hellmouth have released two prior full-lengths since 2007. They seem to have spent the last few years figuring out exactly what their sound should be. They blend a ton of different stuff together, everything from bluegrass and country to funk and R&B. They definitely seem to be more comfortable with the former, but when they decide to get down and groovy, they really go for it. The first time I heard all the songs in a row it didn’t strike me that I was listening to one band the whole time. They do a good job of changing things up with the one constant being the voice of lead singer/guitarist Sean Hoots. His twangy vocals are unmistakeable and surprisingly charming. It’s not always there, which is odd, but he definitely uses it to his advantage.
My personal favorite is the third track, “Lay Low.” It definitely brings in some of that funk I mentioned. It’s an old school crowd-pleaser, and I just happen to be a sucker for that kind of thing. The groove kicks off with Hoots playing a riff on his guitar taken from John Lee Hooker’s playbook. Then the drum kicks start banging, and if you aren’t immediately nodding along there’s probably something wrong with you. There isn’t anything earth-shattering going on lyrically in this tune, it’s just a fun bit of jamming that happens to feature some great backing vocals.
The following song, “Apple Like A Wrecking Ball,” could not be any more different from its predecessor. It’s word-heavy and full of big ideas. Is it about the decline of western civilization? Is it a song about Americans inability to take responsibility for their actions? I don’t know. That’s for every listener to decide, I suppose. What I know for certain is that this is the best sung of the ten songs collected here. It’s fairly simple for the majority, but when they reach the line “It’s this woman that you have me/rotten apple of my eye” I think you’ll find it hard to disagree.
These two songs display the range that you’ll get with Hoots and Hellmouth. They do the aggressive rocker and the somber heartbroken ballad equally well. It only took me a few minutes to realize how talented these guys are, and they proved it over and over again through the rest of Salt.
Technically this album comes out tomorrow. You can hear the whole thing right now on the groups bandcamp page and pre-order your copy there. I recommend you do just that.
Touring begins this week for the album. They’ll be hitting Chicago on May 20th, playing at Schubas. I’ve heard great things about their live shows, so I’m excited to have them coming through town.