of The Harmed Brothers
Nestled between the rolling farmland of Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the impossibly tall trees further south, the gold and timber town of Cottage Grove has always drawn an eclectic mix of dreamers, drifters and prophets to its downtown Main Street.
For about a decade now, many of these frontier misfits have gathered to carouse and quench their thirst at the Axe & Fiddle Pub, and if the Harmed Brothers owe the path they’ve forged these past few years to any particular beer-soaked barroom along the way, it’s got to be the Fiddle.
It’s more than likely the place where, in early 2009, singer/songwriter Ray Vietti — already the veteran of one ambitious but ill-fated musical dream — first encountered Alex Salcido, and it’s probably where the two musicians first decided to jam. Soon enough, Vietti would come to recognize Salcido as a kindred spirit in both vision and song, and the young tunesmith would help write the Harmed Brothers saga with an insightful, often wistful lyrical and instrumental voice that offers a fitting complement to Vietti’s gritty baritone and powerful chords.
The fledgling duo paused in the Grove for a moment, gathering steam, trading tunes and talking possibilities, performing for crowds there and in nearby Eugene before striking out for the open road — their second home ever since and the undeniable inspiration for many of the songs and stories to follow.
Soon after their first meeting, Vietti and Salcido quickly recorded and released their independent debut, “All The Lies You Wanna Hear,” and began to tell the tales of love, loss, hard-drinking and redemption that have since endeared them to legions of fans and fellow musicians.
In 2011, the Harmed Brothers’ evolution as songwriters and as a touring act showed through with their sophomore effort, “Come Morning,” a release from Oklahoma-based Lackpro Records that sways with the rhythms of the road and the forlorn waltzes of a nation’s dive bars and dance halls.
These days, they call it “indiegrass,” the rustic American musical blend that celebrates and chronicles the physical and emotional gauntlet the Harmed Brothers have always ridden, zigzagging endlessly in vans across the nation. It’s an inclusive sound, the melding of two unique voices adorned each night with the contributions of the many pickers, singers and songwriters the Brothers have encountered in their travels.
It’s known as the “Harmed Family Roadshow,” and it’s as much a nightly happening as a sound in constant flux — from a jangly acoustic three-piece one night to a manic mariachi string band the next, a wall of rock-and-roll bombast at times giving way to the whispered incantations of two folk troubadours, often within the span of a single song.
Two years more on the road brought a European tour and a host of new fans, and by 2013, Salcido and Vietti stood poised to offer their most ambitious album to date. “Better Days,” recorded in a St. Louis studio and released by Portland, Oregon-based Fluff and Gravy Records, draws inspiration from themes of personal growth and redemption as well as the hurdles, heartbreaks and mishaps that have always accompanied the traveler’s search for enlightenment. Praised as “honest and inspired, devoid of posturing and pretense,” “Better Days” features some of the Harmed Brothers’ deepest grooves and their most plaintive and enduring tunes to date.
In the winter of 2015, the “Harmed Family Roadshow” gathered together in all its tattered glory in Portland, Oregon, the Brothers’ adopted home and headquarters, to begin amassing the riffs and recollections that will become their definitive recorded work. Due from Fluff and Gravy in early 2016, the album draws from the tales and talents of many of the duo’s closest collaborators and dearest friends. It promises textures never before captured on a Harmed Brothers release, brought together by the two visions and voices that propel the band toward an inspired and undeniable future.
A former honky tonk acolyte, Adam Lee’s newest album, 'Sincerely, Me,' turns traditionalism on its head. It’s a varied and engaging collection, criss-crossing genre and influence and bringing to mind artists such as Cory Branan, Justin Townes Earle, or John Moreland.
In support of the release he's spent much of the past year on the road. He completed another European tour and played shows with Dave Alvin, Lucero, and Frank Turner.
Prior to landing in Chicago, Lee fronted Kansas City-based Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company, a scrappy alt-country outfit with traditionalist leanings. His time in the honky tonks paid off; he was nominated for Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Awards and found homes for his country songs in writer/director Kevin Smith’s Red State and TUSK.
Following these successes, he moved to Chicago after being offered a leading role in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, under the musical direction of Chuck Mead. It was at this point he began writing and recording the songs that make up ‘Sincerely, Me,’
All told, ‘Sincerely, Me’ is a strong and diverse debut. Roots-rock songwriter Justin Wells sums up this sentiment. “Somebody’s gonna file this album under Americana, but that's because Adam Lee isn't a genre... it nods at several American musics without knowing the meaning of derivative.”
A departure indeed, but that’s something he’s used to. The son of an Air Force officer, Adam Lee spent much of his youth in transit. Music, however, was a constant, and a childhood spent moving state to state, and sometimes country to country, prepared him for a life traveling on the road. “I grew up saying goodbye,” he says, “and it teaches you to appreciate what’s on the horizon.”
Initially writing folk and alt-country, he fronted Kansas City-based Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company. Their first album ‘Ghostly Fires’ was released in 2008. The band committed to a more traditional country and western sound for their second album, ‘When the Spirits Move Me’ and logged many miles supporting the 2010 release. Lee’s time in the honky tonks paid off; he was nominated for one of Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Awards and found homes for his country songs in feature films (writer/director Kevin Smith’s Red State and TUSK).
He’d soon found a new home for himself as well — on the Broadway stage. In 2013 he moved to Chicago after being offered a leading role in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, under the musical direction of Chuck Mead.
Lee’s wanderlust informed his writing as well, and he soon began crafting songs not tied to a style, but to a feeling. They make up a large portion of the material on ‘Sincerely, Me,’ his first solo album. “I just tried to put the best songs I’d written on the new record, the songs that moved me most, regardless of genre.” In woodshedding the new material he spent much of the past year on the road. He played shows with Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan. He completed his second European tour. He kept writing and soon, he found himself in the open-ended world of Americana.
His mutability is readily apparent throughout ‘Sincerely, Me,’ and he continually plays with genre, style, and influence. ’Sing With Me,’ is a raucous, punk inflected anthem, working to reconcile youthful and rebellious optimism with sobering adult realities. This song leads directly into ‘Patrick’ a fatalistic and tragic tale of two brothers, laid upon a sparse backdrop of Irish-styled fiddle and banjo.
The most country song of the collection, ‘What I Need,’ comes across more tragedy than two step, a deceptively upbeat confessional, uncluttered from all the smoke and neon. Underscored with upright bass and saloon-style piano Lee sings “I’m patient, and I’m thoughtful, and really, really insecure/ but I’ve found ways to make it worse.”
All told, ‘Sincerely, Me’ is a strong and diverse debut, a record reminiscent of a life spent in no one place in particular. Roots-rock songwriter Justin Wells sums up this sentiment. “Somebody’s gonna file this album under Americana, but that's because Adam Lee isn't a genre… it nods at several American musics without knowing the meaning of derivative.” In that context, the album title could be taken a different way. ‘Sincerely, Me’ is Adam Lee at his most honest, his most vulnerable, and ultimately, his most engaged. A restless mind put at ease not by comfort or consistency, but by forward momentum. Adam Lee is heading somewhere, and even if we’re not quite sure of his next stop, we’re happy to come along.
Jacob Tippey of Calumet as well as The Frankl Project