Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints’ Western Soul

cover artBirch Pereira, Oregon-grown and now based in Seattle, leads his band the Gin Joints through a set of hot jazz, rockabilly, bluesy folk and more on their sophomore album Western Soul. It’s a tour through Americana in the era of “speakeasies, honky-tonks and roadhouses,” with bassist, singer and songwriter Pereira as the tour guide.

Their debut album Dream Man was named Northwest Jazz Recording of the Year in 2016, and the follow-up seems destined for honors of its own. One of the best tracks, and one of five (out of 11 total) written by Pereira is the opener, which has the question asked by everyone in Seattle at some time or another, “How Long (Until I See The Sun Again)?” It’s a shuffling proto-rocker with a bit of New Orleans in the sound, from the organ and the second-line horn section. Lead guitarist Daniel Rainard is one of the band’s standout players, and he knocks it out of the park on this one; kudos also to rhythm guitarist Jason Goessl, who helps drive the hot rhythm section.

This band really swings, as you can see in this video for another one of Pereira’s songs, “A Love I Can’t Explain.”

The band has spent some time in New Orleans, and the influence shows up in their swampy, bluesy cover of the traditional “St. James Infirmary” as well as in their take on Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame.” Kate Olson kills with a bari sax solo on the latter! And Pereira and crew have a great time getting on a Latin groove with the old chestnut “The Carioca.” First time I heard this one I noticed that the pianist on this track has one nice montuno, that uniquely Cuban style of piano improvisation. Well, no wonder! It’s Pereira’s fellow-Seattleite Alex Chadsey, whose trio Duende Libre put out one of my favorite albums of 2017.

There’s one obscure cover, almost a novelty song, a rockabilly/country ditty called “I Don’t Like I Did Before.” That one was co-written by country stars Johnny Horton and Claude King, and as far as I know appeared only on the B-side of Horton’s 1956 single of “I’m A One-Woman Man.” (Which was itself quite ably covered by the one-off supergroup Hindu Love Gods — but now I’m just showing off.)

Pereira’s understated tenor voice and the record’s production styles should appeal to fans of Andrew Bird and M. Ward. I almost had to check that it wasn’t Ward singing on several tracks, particularly one of Pereira’s originals, the swamp-pop crooner “Could It Be Something Else,” with the heavy slap-back on the vocals and the general old-school, analog sound. The same applies to the lovely sad country/western-style closer, “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Please Let Me Know),” with its lovely viola accompaniment from Andrew Joslyn.

This band has to be a ton of fun in a live setting. You can find out when and where they’re playing and hear samples at their website.

(independent, 2018)

Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.

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