I keep hearing myself say that Americana really isn’t my thing. Rock, hard rock, shoegaze, punk, jangle pop, surf. Those are my things. Then I look at the evidence. River City Extension’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger was, maybe, my favorite record of 2012. And I keep heading out to catch Harper’s Fellow whenever I can.
Harper’s Fellow are a Jersey Shore based neo-country / folk quintet fronted by singer / songwriter Cortney Metzler. The band has progressed quickly from playing their first gigs in the fall of 2012 to the release of their crowd-funded debut full-length, Thanks For Tonight, in July. Thanks For Tonight, like Harper’s Fellow, is a product of Monmouth County, recorded in Rumson and Red Bank, mixed and mastered in Asbury Park.
I think what drew me to River City Extension was the combination of some first-rate songwriting from Joe Michelini and a heavy dose of punk rock energy. Similarly, Metzler has written some strong songs for this album, delivering them in her beautifully powerful voice. Guitarist Eric Castellazzo manages to achieve a tone that fits the mood without exactly feeling like a country twang. It’s vital to creating, in combination with Metzler’s lyrics, the album’s noirish atmosphere.
On songs like opener “Amber Fallout,” “Three Paint Brushes,” “Bow & Arrow,” “Cadillac,” and “Smoking Gun,” I can imagine alternate arrangements featuring fiddle and pedal steel; and I’m happy that Harper’s Fellow chose to go in a different direction. The arrangements help take Metzler’s songs about jealousy, drinking, and bad relationships out of the realm of pure country into a, sometimes, darker place.
Despite its lyrical references to New Mexico and Alabama, Thanks For Tonight is a product of the Jersey Shore, both physically and philosophically. “I know that water won’t wash my sins away / But it looks so pretty when I’m lying on the shore / watching the moon rise,” sings Metzler on “Whiskey.” Harper’s Fellow call on years of “lying on the shore” to bring some of New Jersey’s gritty rock and roll past to bear on the more expansive sounds of Americana to produce something that will appeal to you, even if Americana isn’t your thing.
Thanks For Tonight is out now and you can catch Harper’s Fellow when they perform at Asbury’s Berkeley Bar on August 30th.