The Deslondes

Ways & Means

This New Orleans quintet, together since 2013, gained plaudits for its previous two albums, which reflected a raw and fetching goulash of roots influences and unforced vocals. After a hiatus from touring, they reunited and made a choice to expand their palette by augmenting their austere guitar/bass/pedal-steel sound with keyboards, flute, sax, and harmonica.

The new sound is organic and cohesive, with more-complex textures. Nonetheless, the vocals remain loose. Guitars, played by Sam Doores and Riley Downing, provide accents on the vivid “South Dakota Wild One,” a story of rural musicians. Their playing swirls around the vocals on the easy-rocking “Howl at the Moon.” Echo-drenched chords lead into “Wild Eden,” with Phil Spector-esque riffs and two brief, elegant solos. The gently-rocking “Dunes” uses a similar, highly effective motif.

John James Tourville’s pedal steel frames the vocal on the ballad “Standing Still” with chords and strategically placed high-register riffs underpinned by Dan Cutler’s solid bass and Cameron Snyder’s spot-on percussion. The guitarists add flourishes on “Tomorrow Morning” and inject color to the more sparsely arranged “Sweet Release.”

Reinvention has its risks. In the Deslondes’ case, it feels utterly fresh, with echoes of The Band at their greatest.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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