Black Eagle multi-media artist and University of Great Falls art instructor Doug Wendt and his band have released their first recording. It melds native legends, Montana landscapes, and spooky lyrics, set to a funky island beat.
Wendt is joined here by long-time cohorts Jimmy Foot, guitar/keys, Doug Sternberg, bass and native flute, Steven Powell, drums and jaw harp, and Marc Wendt, guitar. Wendt provides guitar, percussion and main vocals, while most of his sidekicks, including Cat Wendt, supply background vocals. Many other musicians contribute, too.
Wendt wrote or co-wrote more than half the songs, and his spectral interpretations stir the dust of forlorn and long-deserted western towns. But his vision goes beyond geographical boundaries, encompassing a world threatening to disappear like the barren towns, nay, civilizations of yore, due to humanity’s excesses.
Wendt’s throaty gravel-bed baritone almost whispers the story-songs. Echos and wolf sounds introduce “Ohtahku,” about the great falls of the Missouri. Wendt extols the magical, ethereal “ghost town sound” of the falls, long-silenced by a dam, yet reincarnated through music.
Native singing and a palpitating drumbeat introduce Sherman Alexie’s creation poem, “Crow Testament.” Wendt speaks the words over a Jamaican rock track. His “Auditor” has a stark, apocalyptic ambience married to a perky cadence; a throbbing tempo and sustained guitar riff punctuate this tale of Butte’s toxic Berkeley Pit.
Wendt weaves Leonard Cohen’s “Fingerprints” into Stan Jones’s melody, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” to shuffly comic effect; and Neil Young’s “Boxcar” gets a syncopated and thunky train-track treatment as Wendt sings in hushed tones.
This album is definitely ghostly, and definitely different. Visit www.ghosttownsound.com.
Recorded at Bongo Boy Studio, McKinleyville, CA, Hollow Bone Studio, Rexburg, ID, Tuff Gong Studios, Kingston, Jamaica, and studios in London; co-produced by Doug Wendt and Jimmy Foot, 2014.
– Mariss McTucker