We read about this disc in MilesofMusic and then chanced upon it in the used bins of our favorite local CD shop, Albums On The Hill in Boulder, Colorado (we’re not all from Texas here). Released in 2004 by Daemon Records, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" is the first release by this band as an entity.
Man, it’s good. Especially if you like the kind of music you hear from Lucinda Williams or Mary Gauthier. Or Lone Justice. Which I do. I can’t figure out why someone would sell this one back.
Lead singer and songwriter, Becky Warren, knows what she’s doing. Her voice has that edge which forces the comparisons with Williams and Gauthier. It’s rock-and-roll strong where it needs to be and sweetly mellow on the quieter songs.
Michael Palmer shares songwriting duties with Warren and plays guitar as well. Other bandmembers are Andy Eggers (drums, mandolin, backing vocals) and Altay Guvench (bass). The band gets some help from Scott Roy (banjo, accordion, backing vocals; Tyler Wood (organ); Pierce Woodward (banjo); Gian Pangaro (dobro); and Whitney Retallic, Noam Weinstein, Tim Blane, Judy Scott-Clayton, Rose Polenzani on backing vocals.
On some tracks, the guitar has a twangy 70’s Southern rock kind of feel – the bass line on "When I Was Your Girl" is reminiscent of "Sweet Home Alabama" but the overall effect is more Lucinda Williams than Lynyrd Skynyrd. The tone, the instrumentation, the voice, the attitude reek of bitter nostalgia and sarcasm.
The music got my attention first but then I started listening to the lyrics. And these guys can do that too.
The break up songs are the best. And they’re mostly break up songs on this disc. That makes for better music – don’t ask me why.
"Something To Do" tells that oh-so-familiar heartbreaking story of a girl who recognizes that she’s "just something to pass the time when you feel blue/Just something to do." In a very catchy way.
"1000 Miles From Tennessee" is a fast-paced declaration of emotional independence. "But I won’t dial your line again cuz it’s always you on the other end / And I’ve heard everything you have to say before." Ha. Take that.
The last song, "We’ll Be Okay," is a wistful attempt at starting over with a broken relationship. The tone is hopeful yet defeated. A break up song in disguise.
According to bass player Guvench, the Great Unknowns currently are spread out along the Eastern Coast but a new disc is in the works. Just don’t know when.