Dragondeer, a self-described psych-blues band from Colorado, released Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1, their latest 7” record, today! And tonight they’re celebrating with a hometown show at the Bluebird Theater in Denver. The album is just the right length to occupy your time on the way to the show, so I suggest downloading it for the trip here.
I listened to this album before knowing anything about Dragondeer. I must say, Dragondeer is one of the most aptly chosen band names I’ve heard in a very long time. It describes the album in one word better than I can surely do. Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1 has three songs (including the digital “Bonus Track”), three moods, and three contradictory stories. Much like viewing a dragondeer creature for the first time, you’ll likely tilt your head slightly to get another perspective and check just what you thought you heard.
If you are not a self-described psych blues lover, fear not! This album is for almost everyone. For me, this is best described as a modern soul blues album. Soul blues is a bit like a mood ring. It can be light and frothy, sexy, mean and gritty, optimistic, even down-right depressing. The beauty of it is, that much like people, it’s a complicated array of styles and emotions all mashed together to make something awesome, and yet surprisingly easy to listen to. Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1 succinctly conveys this in three songs, and will have you moving the entire time.
Listen to Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1:
It breaks down like this…..
Track 1, “When I See You” is light and sexy. Snare on the quarter notes, a motown bass line, rhythm guitar dancing up the fretboard, a baritone vocal exclaiming, “I got a feeling, I just can’t hide,” and background “ooo's” in falsetto, which make this a well executed ode to love makin’ that will get you winking at your significant other, or that soul across the bar.
Track 2, “Broadway Avenue” is driving and gritty. If Pinocchio was remade today, this would be the song played when the naughty boys were dancing around on Pleasure Island. Harmonica and guitar are intertwined in a rhythmic, sometimes wavelike mix of ebb and flow, while the rhythm section creates a swinging march like cadence. Frontman Eric Halborg’s vocals showcase his blues side as he sings of a place where “what ya gonna do… there are so many fine, fine things for children to do;” and I can assure you, they’re all naughty!
Bonus Track, “If You Got The Blues” is a soulful song with great blues instrumentals. The harmonica sets the tone, the rhythm section gets you swaying back and forth, and the lapsteel sings over the whole thing. The vocals are strong, yet as each note is held out, they emphasize the longing and almost begging plea: “Don't leave me, ma please don’t leave.” The melody doesn’t always end up where you think it will, and that gives it a nice originality to a song type and story that is often all too familiar.
This brings me back to the mythical dragondeer. Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1 makes love to you, breaks your heart while running around on you, and then begs you to come back with promises that it’ll be there for you when you have the blues. It is fun and playful, and simultaneously breathes fire. It is soul blues performed in a very respectable way. Enjoy!
Get tickets to Dragondeer's Bluebird Theatre Release Show here.
Deets: Topanga Canyon Sessions Vol. 1. was recorded by Dragondeer featuring Eric Halberg on Vocals, Guitar, and Harmonica; Cole Rudy on Mandolin, Lap Steel, Guitar, and Vocals; Carl Sorensen on Drums and Percussion; and Casey Sidewell on Bass. The album was produced by Mark Howard and Executive Producer Peter Bowers. Artwork was created by Ryder Evan Robison. For more information on Dragondeer visit www.dragondeer.com .
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.