Band of the Day

2012.02.06

Dolorean

Quietly focused alt-country with a timeless beauty
I can't believe it would be better, if I was tough as hard as nails and you were tough as leather.
lyrics from Thinskinned

First formed by guitarist/song-writer Al James in Silverton, OR in the late 90s, Dolorean moved to Portland by 2001 and completed their lineup with Jay Clark (piano), Ben Nugent (drums), James Adair (bas) and Emil Amos (guitar). The band's brand of understated, delicate folk/country music quickly gained a following in Portland. Their debut album Not Exotic was released by Yep Rock records in 2003 and helped the band garner a nation-wide audience. The band continued to grow, releasing Violence In The Snowy Fields in 2004 and You Can't Win in 2007, touring the US and Europe in support of artists like Damien Jurado. In 2011, the band released their latest effort, The Unfazed on Brooklyn label Partisan Records.

Portland, Oregon's Dolorean seem like they would be pretty interested in a time traveling car (though probably not in spelling bees). The five-piece's brand of rootsy folk rock is totally untethered from trends of time or place; this stuff could have come from LA in the 70s, Texas in the 80s and countless others. Their country-folk hybrid is chilled but focused, and infused with a beautiful weariness.

Their 2011 album The Unfazed has a sort of don't-shout-you'll-scare-them-off! respectfulness to it, like it was written and recorded entirely at dusk somewhere sacred. “Thinskinned” is one of the more grandiose tracks on the album, and one of the best. Guitarist/vocalist Al James paints a picture of two conflicting personalities over aching electric guitars and piano chords. James has got a bit of country phrasing to his voice, but mostly he uses an every-man delivery, a clean slate that you could probably project any number of your friends upon as he sings, “I can't believe it would be better, if I was as hard as nails and you were tough as leather.”

With its fatigued drum beat and melancholy acoustic guitar, “The Unfazed” will get under your skin if you let it. The song's filled with great lines, but James wisely chooses to grasp onto single lines in the chorus, savoring and repeating the syllables of “fill up the juke” and “burgundy blues” as piano and slide guitar rise and swell around him. Like many songs on The Unfazed, “Sweet Boy” takes some of the soul of country music, like it's plodding swing and bar room piano, but puts it through a folk lens. The Unfazed will never hit you over the head, this is patient music. Give it some patience yourself, and you’ll be amply rewarded.