At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss The Beau Roland Band as just another folky acoustic bar band. My first exposure to them was listening online to some recordings from a live Willie Nelson Tribute where they played the classic Willie album “Red Headed Stranger” in its entirety. That alone should have been a clue that these guys are, well, a little different.
Different is the best way to describe them: a Boston band led by a Southerner, named after their frontman’s alter-ego and listing among their influences both Earnest Tubb and the Flaming Lips. Not your everyday Americana outfit.
They’ve just put out their second self–released album, “Northern Hospitality” and on closer listen you’ll find there’s a whole lot more going on here than just a laid back good time. It’s full of funny/sad observations on doomed love, life on the road, life in a small town, getting ahead, falling behind, coming, going, drinking, chasing dreams and even the death of the American ideal.
The crisp, loose, low-fi production hits the perfect balance of rollicky country, folk influenced indie pop, jazz, and swing. The guitars that drive much of the record both jangle and twang in equal measure. While the sound is unique and pretty much theirs alone, you can catch smatterings of varied influences: Uncle Tupleo, Pure Prairie League, The Beatles, Dylan, and 70s pop songs by the likes of Steven Bishop, Maria Muldaur, Loudon Wainwright and Dr Hook all come to mind.
Lead singer, songwriter, guitarist Phillip Ouellette sings these catchy little songs in an unassuming manner that belies the depth of his writing. His voice never stretches too far or hits a false note. He’s backed up very capably by bandmates Tyler Pollard on bass and vocals, Rick Dillon on guitar and mandolin, and drummer Jeremy Eagle. Together they seem to click very nicely.
My two favorite cuts are the back to back tracks, "Where Delilah Lay" – a fun little song about killing a cheating lover and "229 Years" – an epitaph to what our great nation once stood for. In that song, which has a nice Dixieland brass treatment, Ouellette manages to capture in just over four minutes what Neil Young took an entire album to say.
It’s that succinct, under-the-radar quality that makes this record so surprising and surprisingly listenable. This is an album that’s as much fun to listen to as it sounds like it was to make.