“Take up the Trouble”
By Steve Graham
I miss the golden era of alt-country, after Uncle Tupelo started playing punk rock on the back porch. And when the Jayhawks threw Big Star and the Byrds in a blender. And when Ryan Adams first started breaking hearts on Whiskeytown duets with Caitlin Cary.
I know I’m not alone because Colorado’s own Bison Bone draws on the same influences, and is adding new cobblestones to that well-worn path.
Singer and founder Courtney Whitehead prefers the label “cosmic country,” but it’s all part of the same family.
Bison Bone is taking country music back to its roots, then adding blues-rock progressions and alt-rock noise.
On the new six-song release, “Take Up the Trouble,” Whitehead has more gravel in his voice and more grit in his garage rock than on Bison Bone’s 2017 debut album, “History of Falling.” He has also honed his stories of heartbreak, and better employs harmonies with backup singer Brianna Straut, who has a captivating voice and her own solo career.
“Trouble” opens with the noisy punch of “Cryin’ Shame,” a blues-country rave about “sitting at the end of the bar feeling no pain” with a great guitar riff from Wolf Van Elfmand, a Fort Collins troubadour in a seemingly endless list of musical collectives.
“Broken Toes” is a textbook country ballad driven by Ben Waligoske’s pedal steel and Whitehead’s lonesome lament about “stumbling so long I can’t find the road.”
The other highlight is the closer, appropriately titled, “It’s Only Goodbye.” Strautt takes lead vocals for a slow-building and stirring breakup ballad.
The album officially drops on Feb. 22 with an album release party at the Hi-Dive in Denver.