With their albums no longer on streaming services, Gypsy Tailwind is now something of a Portland myth, a band that shone brightly, if not for long, from 2008 through the summer of 2011.
They hit, initially, on the strength of an elegant demos album, “Halo Sessions,” and the paired vocals of the fresh-voiced Anna Lombard and the veteran Dan Connor, who first found some success with the much-heavier Goud’s Thumb. Many venues were filled, albums released, articles written.
And just like that, it was gone.
Any number of bands have similar stories, but not many bands regroup 10 years later and give it another go.
With Love by Numb3rs, Lombard and Connor are together again, with all manner of complications – brain cancer, babies, life, partners – behind them, and ready to make more of the rootsy, country, Americana they plied a decade ago, driven by their paired and alternating vocals.
And while they may eventually build out the band when the pandemic times are over and people have bands again, for the time being, they are rounded out by the ever-talented Jon Roods, best known as the bassist for Rustic Overtones and Paranoid Social Club, but also a multi-instrumentalist and the producer who ran the boards for the last couple of Overtones records. He is also Lombard’s partner.
If you are going to be trapped during a pandemic and looking to make a record, there are worse people to have on hand than Jon Roods.
Everything about the debut record, “Parachute,” would suggest a full studio production, but the three did basically everything at home during the pandemic, creating a fully realized release from a band no one’s ever seen perform.
As you might expect, it is not dissimilar from the first two Gypsy records, before Amanda Gervasi stepped in on lead vocals when Lombard went on a maternity leave of sorts. Love by Numb3rs is still rooted in acoustic guitar and countrified song forms, with plenty of twang and shuffle, and Lombard and Connor’s vocals still resonate well, her power contrasted with his growl and rasp.
These days, though, Connor sounds a little more like late-career John Prine, with some of his resonance gone, likely the result of the relapse of brain cancer he battled during the album’s recording. The result is a more vulnerable sound, a world-weariness that ripples through the likes of “Lost in the Deep Snow,” where bright xylophone hits are like glimpsed headlights, and “Northern Sky,” where Connor wonders, “25 years is a long time ago/ Do I still look the same?”
Lombard, though, has lost none of the force and resonance she’s developed through solo work like 2013’s “Head Full of Bells” and her Armies collaboration with Dave Gutter. In fact, she seems to rattle the speakers and test the capacity of her microphone on the old-time gospel piece “The Glory,” which finishes the new record. “I been broken,” she wails, “I been battered, but I’m still brave.”
Get the woman a congregation.
If anything, though, it’s possible Lombard and Connor’s voices aren’t featured quite enough. On “Let the Wind,” for instance, they open in tandem, but there is also a chorus of voices behind, multiple vocal tracks that double and treble. And on “Hard To Find,” where Connor opens with a bit of ’80s atmosphere and some delay on his vocals, he is then joined by Lombard, but also a few other Lombard vocal tracks. It’s nicely multi-layered, but a lot to listen for in the headphones. Rarely do you just get their two voices in traditional harmony, in a Shovels & Rope kind of treatment.
More often, they take turns and play roles, as on the rocking “Blue Skies,” which just begs to be performed in a roadhouse bar, where they alternate classic “on the road” narratives. Or “Trouble in You,” with lyrics and sound that sort of mesh Grizfolk’s “Troublemaker” with Hope Sandoval’s “Trouble,” and a vocal call-and-response of sorts. This is the most sultry number on the record, and Lombard’s falsetto lilt is especially nice as she spells out “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.”
All the while, Roods is a veritable music box, with organ undertones, walking bass, guitar tones that never disappoint, and what must be augmented finger-snapping in “Tell Me.” There is so much to listen for here.
You can’t go home again, it’s true. And it would be unfair to say this record is trying to recreate that extended moment from a decade ago. But it’s great to hear these two singing together again, and it sure would be nice to see it on a stage sometime soon.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 weeks, 5 songs
• Harlem Brando, “The Machine in Me” — A new alt-pop project from the inimitable Jacob Augustine, this has hints of George Michael in its digital beats and high-register delivery. Augustine fans will never guess this is him, part of a full EP, “Take Care of Your Babies.”
• Snaex, “Nuestro Nosotros” — If you like indie rock in a barn, don’t miss this new live video, which brings together “My Old Friend,” “Mood Ring,” “Bella Ciao Revisited,” and “It’s Like Magic at that Point” into a textured performance with lots of ambling guitar interludes. Electric guitars love barns.
• Crystal Canyon, “Boomerang” — The most likely single from the new full-length, “yours with affection and sorrow,” Lynda Mandolyn’s vocals are a dream amongst bristling guitars.
• Travis Cyr, “Good Guys from Nebraska” — Cyr has not been idle during the pandemic, releasing a slew of material, including this narrative piece full of biting sneer, gin and tonics, and the wrong part of town. It’s track three on the full-length “The Good Shop of Hope.” And he may have released another album since this.
• Bait Bag, “Safe Word” — Sick of this shit? This is your tune: “Hey man, stop the world, I wanna get off!” Two minutes of pure heat.
— Sam Pfeifle