• Dave Monterey

HWC Shape Shifting As We Grow - Song Dog Music Blog Aug 11, 2019

There are no hard and fast rules in the creative hemisphere. And that's a good thing. Granted all musical forms require an underlying architecture, even in jazz. But artistic exploration does inevitably involve the bending or breaking of established norms.

The end result is that five months into the Heartwood Crossing endeavor we find ourselves donning shirts of different sizes and going to new places with our art.

Let me see if I can better illustrate the ways this plays out. Every ensemble is constituted from the synergy of its members, right? With HWC, the six piece band is distinguished by an important rhythm section. When drums and bass hit pay dirt (which Dan and Daniel together orchestrate) some serious gold is produced. The band shines smartly with tight grooves and nuanced flourishes.

So it is that rockin' songs like newly added "Jaded Lover," Emily's "In My Backyard," Dave's "Stony Point Road," and also Tim's delicate "Coeur D'Alene." rise to a high level with full complement of musical production.

The ziplines high above the sturdy trunks (those would be the vocals, violin, and 6-string guitar parts) can make their scaffolding and trajectory accordingly. The canopy of a tall forest is a lovely place for a song to live. So here, signature approaches are established.

But wait! Nature in her unmatched call for resilience, turns and demands something new.

Imagine a forest without without trees or let's just say with the sturdy old growth section removed. You've got a feeling for how a vastly different 'unplugged acoustic' trio of three performing singer-songwriters plays out.

I've noticed the approach to soloing on acoustic guitars even on same songs covered by full band is significantly different than when playing electric. Both the attack on strings and cascade of the notes inhabits a different world.

The tunes of HWC Trio begged for more percussion and so Tim and Dave brush the guitar strings and faces of their instruments in ways to respond. Emily fleshes out the new canopy with addition of percussion hand-instruments.

Plus, with three, there's ever more pressure to get those harmony vocals to fall into precise line (rule conformity there...). New songs sparkle in this context. Tim's "Borderline" undergoes an acoustic transformation that breathes with life, Emily's new "Pretty Penny" shines in the 'mirror-ball light.' And Dave's introspective 'Lovelight Calling' finds a roost not quite seen or heard before.

But not so fast, grasshopper... This band has taken on a plethora of gigs, some resulting in configurations of band personnel unanticipated and certainly influential on process.

Violinist Jon, and singer-songwriters Emily and Tim have performed as an alternate trio (hence the informal acronym JET) and discovered additional elements of shape-shifting.

Some of the big ones are alterations in solo sections determined differently from what the full band has remembered. Or harmonies that get structured uniquely in absence of other players. It's a natural progression in the short term, but has an effect on the whole. We are paying attention and coming to terms with the impacts of variety appearances.

JET found a bit of a learning curve with need to add material - given having one lead singer out. Reaching back for some past-favorites brought additions of Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," and Paul Simon's "Me & Julio." Also, Nancy Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime' and the 70's country classic "Ode to Billie Jo," Tim took an opportunity to sing Dave's "Friends and Lovers" with Emily covering her interactive vocal parts there.

Finally, a gig appeared where HWC performed as quintet without the vocal and guitar of Tim. We rolled, we sang (two not three), we covered others' parts in yet another amalgam. Right off the bat Emily's "Three Lakes" had a different tone, and Dave's Spider Bite had alternate webbing.

Casual first-time listeners may not have experienced any lack - but some of the sonic and visual cues on arrangements re missing for the band. It takes some real accommodation to get used to wearing the spandex pants for these constant changes.

Heartwood Crossing, whether trio, quartet, quintet or sextet, is a creative enterprise. It is a living, breathing, dynamic expression that grows and adapts, and improves with time. The brother and sisterhood are at our foundation. From there, the sky's the limit.

Thanks for listening, and keep on creating good things!

Dave Monterey

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