Popular Missoula group The Hasslers just released a 12-song album, celebrating their move to Seattle for more exposure. The Americana roots-rock combo has a giant line-up allowing for different styles, so they pivot into folk and string-band sounds, too.
The new recording features front man Matt Hassler, lead vocals, guitar, and banjo; Owen Thayer, guitar and pedal steel; Erin Agner, main harmony vocals and accordion; brothers Ben (bass, vocals) and Steven Haber (keys/vocals); and Joey Boyd, percussion, mandolin, and sax. Dean Oswald, trumpet, performs on the recording as guest artist.
Hassler wrote all the melodies and lyrics except for Thayer’s “What Is Wisdom Anyway?” It’s a shuffly country loper with lots of electric guitar and silky steel. Sounding like a cross between Arlo Guthrie and Cat Stevens, Hassler is a down-and-out soul adrift in New Orleans. He’s homesick, and wants to get home to Montana.
“Sound It Out” captures that New Orleans funky vibe, slow-tappin’ and hip-shakin’. Sax and trumpet riffs flesh out this jazzy number.
“Falling Out of Love” is bluesy with an offbeat rhythm and an Allman Brothers twin-guitar opening. Agner matches Hassler’s vocal inflections perfectly, and on the catchy and rolling “Oh My Dear, Oh My Darling,” she shares lead vocals.
“Hurts Sometimes” is a delightful musical nursery rhyme. Folky guitar and banjo create a tick-tock-y feel, and their interplay echoes Hassler’s vocal phrasings as he mouths oodles of lyrics. I like it!
“Handful,” the last tune, comes in with a sweet and mesmerizing start, then builds; Hassler’s vocal enters, then Agner joins in and the tempo grabs a 10,000 Maniacs drumbeat. As the piece waxes and wanes, Hassler and Agner erupt into a melodic argument with many voices joining them. Definitely a handful!
The band’s inventive arrangements, complex and interesting, are a collaboration among the six, and it definitely shows here.
Visit www.thehasslersband.com for more details.
– Mariss McTucker