Hart & the Hurricane
Seattle four-piece Hart and the Hurricane are a night time sort of band. Smokey vintage organs and tremolo guitars mingle with neon lights and half-moon twilight in songs about 'Loretta' and 'Norma Lee', and what's going to happen tonight. With backing vocals, ironic chord changes, essential root-fifth basslines, and the occasional bar room piano, 60s rock influences cross comfortably with country and blues. The best way to experience Hart and the Hurricane is to see them play live. Their galvanizing set always puts one in the mood to raise a glass or clap along. Each band member brings something special to the table. Hart Kingsbery's lead vocals are confident and expressive, and dig into every opportunity for animation, and his semi-hollowbody electric guitar is the perfect glue to bind their sound. Ben Strehle is adept on keyboards, seeming to improvise like an old jazz club cat, but with such accuracy and good taste that the parts must have been rehearsed. Eric Himes is cool and groovy on the Fender P-bass, carrying his weight soulfully and steadily in classic form. And last but not least, drummer Michael Alex brings fire, technical agility and downright showmanship to the rhythm section, including some extended drum solos that can steal the attention of an entire room, and remind you that yes, real humans actually can play drums like this. The band moves seamlessly through their set, able to reach for a beer glass or engage with the audience without ever interrupting the mojo. Occasionally they'll throw in a cover song that drives home the deliciously retro vibe of the band, such as their loungy rendition of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." When it comes to their recorded material, Hart and the Hurricane's self-titled first full-length album gives one a chance to enjoy the clever and well-crafted lyrics, without losing the intensity of the live gig. Hart is a pro, recalling a day when vocalists were performers, and excellence in the one take studio environment was a minimum requirement. Mellotronian strings and jewels of Wurlitzer sparkle in stereo on 'Whale on the Beach' before giving way to a tom-driven outro that brings to mind various well-loved 60s pop bands. The songs are energetic, short and sweet - again in the tradition of times past - making their point and leaving the listener fully attentive. Themes of hard times and isolation set the mood, with 'You're Just a Patsy' offering incisive, witty lyrics with a bit of political punch. The Hurricane would do a great cover of CCR's 'I Put a Spell On You'... which itself is a cover of someone else's song, thus highlighting the soulful rock tradition which flows through this music.