Daniel Hertel’s band Verses The Inevitable are in no hurry. They take their time making records, plan their shows carefully, and perform relatively infrequently. All these things, combined with their surfeit of talent and the excellence of their songs, are great reasons to check out their most recent album Grit & Grace, and then get on over to Denver’s Larimer Lounge tonight for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Every song on Grit & Grace is a gem, and one of several reminders of how apt the album’s title is: there’s clearly a lot of artistry and polish that went into the crafting of each track but at the same time, nothing is over-polished. These songs, multifaceted and sparkling though they may be, still retain their original natural beauty and rough charm. Like any stone, they were formed from gritty elements, from the hard and dirty places found in any truly beautiful location. There’s a sense of struggle in nearly every song on the album, but also an appreciation of the beauty of life, an acknowledgement that light can often only be appreciated by trekking through the darkness.
The album begins with “Tuscaloosa,” a wistful yet gently-driving song, like a letter to a lover the narrator is determined to return to. Its folk rock feel sets the tone for a lot of the tracks to come- while the band regularly dives into other genres, the overall feel of Verses The Inevitable is that of a folk rock band.
Next up is “Horizon,” a ballad that manages to combine a resigned sadness with more determination. “Hard Times” is a bluesy slow-burner enumerating the problems and challenges of the down-and-out, and the first song on the album where singer Madalynn Rose really steps out and shows her stuff. This young woman can really sing, and is a talent worth watching in her own right. Her harmonies with Hertel also reminded me of another way in which the album’s title feels so appropriate, because while they’re both powerful vocalists, Daniel brings the grit while Madalynn carries the grace.
Next up is “Morgan City Blues,” which Hertel says is one of two songs on the album that were written ten years ago, this one because of its “sad personal nature.” That much is obvious from the lyrics, which tell the tale of watching an addict go all the way down, but through rewriting the song with his partner, keyboardist Wil Snyder, they were able to leaven its heavy subject matter into a shuffling blues with classic piano/organ grooves and a killer harmonica solo from great local stalwart Mad Dog Friedman. “Saint Gertrude” is a somewhat pastoral folk song that sounds like a grateful, quiet tribute to some very personal female saint-like presence in the songwriter’s life. “Unclaimed Ground” is, according to Hertel, about acceptance of the end of a relationship, and yet has a bouncy Americana rock feel with some wry humor in the lyrics. For this listener anyway, it ultimately has a hopeful feel- while accepting what is, the singer still seems to be looking forward to what could be.
“Avarice” is a simple little song that sounds like it was written on a sleepless night by a guy who longs to be a better person. As such, it expresses both doubt and faith in a quietly powerful way. The penultimate song, “Nayasa” is a dirty blues-rock piece with hints of the music of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is apropos since Hertel told me it was inspired by a trip he took there, and expresses the helpless anger he felt seeing the pervasive corruption in each country he visited, and that corruption’s very real consequences of death and starvation. The album’s final song, “Presence” is by far its happiest and silliest, a jazzy swing tune with a New Orleans feel complete with barrelhouse piano and horns. The verses lay out all the either/or dilemmas we could focus on in life, but the chorus just tells us, “Get outta your head!”
In short, Grit & Grace takes the listener through some dark places, all the while reminding us that it’s all part of a journey full of surprising beauty and even some good laughs along the way. We’re all in this life and it ain’t the easiest ride, Hertel seems to be telling us (and himself), but we’ve got to keep going- going and watching our surroundings for whatever stones we might find to contain hidden gems.
Verses The Inevitable contains some of the best musicians on Colorado’s Front Range, including aforementioned Wil Snyder and MD Friedman, with drummer Michael McKee, bassist Matt Certosimo, guitarist Zach Adler, and cellist Zack Reaves. They’re all stellar on record and, as your reviewer can attest, they totally bring it live. There’s nothing quite like a concert by Verses The Inevitable, so get yourself on over to the Larimer Lounge tonight!
Keep up with Verses The Inevitable here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.