"Stars and Satellites," Trampled By Turtles (Thirty Tigers)
"Palomino," the last album from Duluth, Minn., acoustic rockers Trampled By Turtles, was the perfect distillation of punk, rock and bluegrass, a hardcore declaration of war that caused a joyously spontaneous, if gentle, mosh pit to breakout during the band's stellar show last year in Nashville.
The band's sixth album, "Stars and Satellites," is a very different record, cut with a diamond drill rather than forged by hammer. Its 11 songs are written from a different set of emotions – a winter album to the summer ramble of "Palomino." The song titles tip the band's hand: "Midnight on the Interstate," "Alone," "High Water," "Risk" and "Widower's Heart."
Songwriter Dave Simonett casts the mood in opener "Midnight," a song about coming home and finding things a mess. Then comes "Alone" and its wordless chorus that invites all those lone wolves out there to join in. Two songs later Simonett matches his voice to a plaintive fiddle line on "High Water."
"Stars and Satellites" is the kind of album you write when you reach a point when you're thinking deeply about the mysteries of life – childbirth and family, love and loss, life and death. There are a handful of uptempo tunes, including the fiery instrumental "Risk," but even these seem touched in some way some by sadness.
The band chucked its all-live-all-the-time ethos for this album and matched Simonett's lyrics in the studio with a rich color scheme of sounds, often working out intricate figures that lock so tightly it's impossible to unravel just what's going on. The looped fiddle sound at the end of "Midnight," the way the mandolin and banjo move in lockstep on "Alone" and the haunting sound of bow on bass strings on "Beautiful" push those songs into different territory.
"Stars and Satellites" is more proof TBT should be mentioned in the same breath as other roots rockers like Old Crow Medicine Show or Mumford & Sons, who are doing something very different with those old sounds they've found.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Widower's Heart" is every bit as beautiful as "Midnight" and "Alone" and conveys a sense of emotion – the deep listlessness of depression – not often expressed in music: "I can't help it if I have a widower's heart/I try to get out of bed but I can't seem to start."