Thayer CD Turn Songs Into Great Chemistry

Arts / Jan. 28, 2010 10:41am EST

By Spencer Lewis

Bow Thayer’s latest CD, “Shooting Arrows at the Moon,” is a major achievement for this Stockbridge singer-songwriter.

Thayer already has six or more CDs in the can, some with his bluegrass/rock group, The Benders, and three solo/full rock band efforts on local entrepreneur Steve Farrington’s Crooked Root Records label.

Yet this one is different from all the others because of one reason: producer Kristina Stykos from Pepperbox Studios and Thunder Ridge Records over in Chelsea.

A top-notch producer/engineer like Stykos will mold a project in the musical image of choice in addition to pressing the record button. They decide who plays what, when, and where it resides within the musical spectrum we call stereo.

In some cases, that producer might also contribute to the project, as Kristina herself is a fine mandolin player, guitarist and singer. Finally, when that musician/producer/engineer understands the music in the truest sense, the results can be smoking hot.

The lineup here is a simple one: Bow on guitar, banjo and vocals, Kristina on guitar and Central Vermonter Patrick Ross on fiddle. The idea was to get the guts of Bow’s incredible songs, putting his lyrics front and center while adding just the right touch of instruments to frame them. Kristina’s formula succeeds brilliantly.

For instance, on the song “Harpoon” she sings word for word with Bow and her haunting voice reinforces the directness of his confessional lyrics:

“There’s a dark coalition,

A ghost on a mission,

I foresee a big collision,

I guess the God’s have all gone fishin’.”

And the refrain:

“Will we wise up, as we dumb us down?

I’m countin’ on your good luck,

I wish you were here now.”

Bow’s voice rises out of mountain modal darkness in “Catskill Stone” or calls on the heavens for a final benediction in “Waltzing on the Wayside”:

“I’m going to get down on my knees like I got no choice

But to sing Hallelujah in a Tom Waits voice.”

Telling Stories

Throughout “Arrows” stories abound, telling of loss, anger, gratitude or just gettin’ through the absurdity of life with as much cantankerous grace as possible. The title track breathes textures of acoustic sensuality and mirrors Bow’s serendipitous lyrics. I can only marvel at how this CD can transfer that imagery in musical terms on this and literally every other song.

There is even an all- instrumental track, “Crooked Blaze” that celebrates the successful chemistry between these three fine players and further highlights the shimmering soundscape Stykos has created in the studio.

The fiddle pushes in the right spots, the banjo cuts like a knife, and fine guitars glisten on the edges or drive the rhythm hard. Bow knows when to scream and he knows when to plead; he can drive a song like an 18-wheeler going through a mud hole or coax it like a feather tickling a baby’s ear.

He’s a songwriter with something to say, and if God has not gone fishing this CD will have legs to take him far beyond these hills and hollers where it can be heard by all.

Bow Thayer Live in Concert!

Central Vermont audiences will have two opportunities to hear Bow Thayer play live with Kristina Stykos and Patrick Ross.

• A benefit for Chandler Music Hall’s Centennial Project is set for Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7:30, also including Tim Gearan and Jimmy Ryan. For online tickets go to www.chandler-arts.com.

• A CD release party will be held at the Langdon St. CafĂ© in Montpelier on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 8:00.


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