Sawyer – Soul City

 Sawyer – Soul City

Sawyer – Soul City – EP Review

Don’t let the write-up in their bio fool you…Sawyer’s a force to be reckoned with.  In the humble description you’ll find on their site, it’ll tell you that this four-piece is “your favorite dive bar band with catchy melodies and hooks sure to be played at any and every dive bar for the next 20 years .“  While there’s definitely much evidence to support these claims on their new Soul City EP – I don’t want anyone getting confused out there…they’re far, far beyond any kind of typical bar band no matter how much they might wanna claim it.  Not to brag or anything, but the bar-band scene is actually something I know quite a bit about after watching my Dad spend the majority of his 20’s & 30’s playing in one night after night…same place mind you too…it was known as the ‘longest house gig in the world’ here locally to other musicians.  And believe me when I say, he would have jumped at the chance to have been in a band as killer as Sawyer is.  I could listen to this band play all damn day and never get tired of’em.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to The Kid Chocolate Band…which probably had a more punked-up sound than you’ll find in Sawyer, but a very similar respect for what has really made music/rock timeless and a style that made the old new & fresh again, just like Sawyer is doing here with this set of songs.  Representing that live sound on this EP…for those out there that have no problem digging on that kind of production, you’ll have no issues with jamming this record up nice & loud like you’re right there listening to it in front of the stage in the audience.  And for the rest of you, there’s even more great news around the corner – Sawyer is heading into the studio for their first full-length record and official debut to be released worldwide in November.  Whether you dig the live edge this EP has or not – I think the songs deserve that chance to get that studio smoothness…and I’m genuinely excited to hear where these tunes will end up.  I’m assuming they’ll all be on it…there’s not a track I’d toss from this EP.  As it stands here on the Soul City EP – you get the essence of what Sawyer is all about without question, that’s all more than audible…you get a bit of live wildness & crushed compression in trying to house this energy into the digital realm…but again, to me, that truly made this experience feel like I was right there in the crowd.  After everything I’ve heard from Sawyer…if I ever get the chance to BE there, believe me, I will be.  For now, I’m getting a great taste of what that moment in time would be like…and I want MORE.

An authentic case of ‘you had me at hello’ – from the moment the soulful sound of Jacob Sawyer’s vocals hit my ears, I was beyond hooked.  You can hear the classic style of songwriting, highlighting the real sweetness of the golden-era of rock’n’roll, and also how they give the whole sound the real weight of incredible musicianship and absolutely outstanding vocals to back it up.  The opening tune “You Never Know…” is a beautiful experience in melody-infused Rock and has a warm spirit you can instantly connect to…Sawyer’s all energy & enthusiasm when it comes right down to it, but quite comforting too.  You can immediately feel the pure soul and passion that Sawyer plays with on “You Never Know…” – this is completely stand-out writing and stunning execution when it comes right down to it.  They’re going with the second tune as the single from what I know…but in terms of a first impression, this song smacks you in the face with charming sound and soul-soothing melody you can truly sing along with.  Perhaps more importantly, you’ll WANT to – Sawyer makes music designed for the crowd to participate, sing, cheer, and fill the room with the memorable, endearing, & uplifting hooks they’re creating echoing back at them.  As many times as I’ve listened to this record in between picking it up and writing about it here, there was never a time where I could listen to “You Never Know…” and not feel that chill of hearing something truly special run down my spine.  I’ve learned to trust that feeling over the years and it’s never steered me wrong as far as I know; I’m tellin’ ya right now that if I was in one of those dive bars Sawyer lives in, and this song started up, and I heard Jacob’s voice come out swinging with this much melody, confidence, capability, and power – ALL time would stop around me and I’d be as lost watching it all happen as I am speechless in listening to this song now.  THIS is how you make a great first impression people…you see?  You hear?  All you have to do is put EVERYTHING you’ve got into all the details from the music to the writing, spend roughly ten years in incubation, and then unleash the beast you’ve become – no problem right?  Good luck in keeping up with the Sawyer formula…even if you somehow managed to go a similar route, I still can’t imagine many out there coming out with a stronger first impression than “You Never Know…” truly leaves you with or even come close to competing with just how much I LOVE this song!  You will too…Sawyer starts this experience with an irresistible tune.

According to all the reports and notes on Sawyer, “Sleep” is going to the be the lead single, officially dropping in late October on their label of Dope Hitz Entertainment.  No objections here…I might like “You Never Know…” and the final track “Down Motown” a bit more on a personal level, but I honestly think that each of these four songs would make an impact out there in their own right.  Sawyer writes single-worthy tunes…more importantly, they PLAY these songs like the single-worthy tunes they are – you really can’t beat the uplifting energy you’ll get from listening to the way this band makes music.  Fantastic crossover appeal and style in the sound of “Sleep” overall…you can hear the genuine FUN this band is having every bit as much as you can hear how dedicated, focused, and tight they are, no matter how loose the vibe becomes – each of these players is right where they should be, every time.  And like – I’m assuming that’s a real saxophone in this band?  It’s gotta be.  I can’t quite tell 100% for sure in this particular mix…but the bottom line is it’s a vibrant sound you’ll hear show up throughout this set in different ways and it ALWAYS enhances the experience in the best possible ways.  “Sleep” has an awesome amount of playful energy to it and a choppy/bouncy vibe that stomps for your attention while still delivering a ton of melody at the same time.  They’ve certainly got a real singer in Jacob, which “Sleep” will confirm beyond question – that’s the kind of voice so strong that you could build a franchise, dynasty, or empire surrounding it.  Excellent balance in the writing of this song…if anything, I might even argue being more addicted to the verse than I was the chorus, but that’s likely just because the chorus is a more sing-along style of idea whereas you just can’t beat the amount of cool that Jacob pours into the microphone at every opportunity on “Sleep.”  People will love the energy of this tune.

Where that additional live-edge really works in their favor is on “Hey DJ” – this track makes you feel like you’re right in the front freakin’ row.  They punk the energy up a notch or two on this one, which brings a wild indie spirit out in their sound unlike any of the surrounding three tunes on Soul City.  And either like, that’s a totally different singer on this song, or Jacob’s a shapeshifter on the mic…I’m 99% sure that’s gotta be someone else, which is another glimpse at the multiple ways that Sawyer can entertain.  “Hey DJ” is quite an interesting tune in my opinion…it’s almost like it’s got a pull towards a weirder Placebo-like vibe, but played from the perspective of a band that’s as explosively colorful as Morning Teleportation…so that Placebo-effect (Oh!  Bonus points for writing!  See what I did there?) grounds that imaginative aspect of a Morning Teleportation idea from going too far out there to get to as a listener.  It’s a real roundabout way of saying I dig the way they’ve managed to control the wild energy of “Hey DJ” and point out how many dimensions of sound there truly are in this band…because ultimately, Sawyer ain’t like either Placebo OR Morning Teleportation for the most part…this track is the exception in that regard.  Pretty sure the Placebo vibe comes mostly from that change on the microphone and rolling sound they create in building up the end of this song from so far out…the Morning Teleportation wildness and celebratory spirit soars through the energy of this whole tune.   I think the drums get a real opportunity to shine on this cut as well…there’s no doubt that Sawyer changes up the style, sound, direction, attitude…pretty much everything here from what you’d expect after the first two tunes.  In my heart of hearts…I have no idea what to actually say about that.  In the music I’ve listened to throughout the years in bands that have the two-singer situation, I always felt myself liking one more than the other, no matter how strong each would be…bands like Treble Charger, Age Of Electric, Goo Goo Dolls, even Barenaked Ladies for that matter, who I haven’t listened to since the departure of Steven Page, so I guess you know which singer I liked better in that band – they all had similar issues.  Point being – it is TOUGH not to do this as a listener…I think it opens up doors for a band to incorporate different sounds and keep things exciting for themselves as musicians & creative-types, which is just as essential if not more-so ultimately…but it’s something to be mindful of when it comes to the perspective of what we hear.  I’d never say throw down the gauntlet and choose…I think it’s important to find every avenue of expression you can travel as a band together…pass or fail, your art always deserves the exploration.

So…”Down Motown” is where I’d suspect that many people out there will hear that ‘favorite dive bar band’ sound they’d described in their bio with the familiar back & forth sway of the rhythm & all – but…like…well…you HEAR it don’t you?  This is a true case of ‘it’s not just what you play, it’s completely how you play it’ – and I’m tellin’ ya right now dear readers, dear friends – Sawyer really ain’t messing around when it comes to their musicianship, writing, vocals, song-structure…I mean, you name it and these guys are putting ALL of their heart & soul into each drop of sweat spilled for their music.  Like I said in the opening, they’re far, far from anything you’d typically just expect to find in your average bar – but that being said, if you ARE that lucky and they’re coming to your town to play a show, I’d literally camp out the night before just to sit at the front and watch these guys play, no hesitation.  The amount of pure SOUL in this one song alone should take your freakin’ breath away…the authentic passion that Sawyer has is impossible to fake – you can audibly tell that every single one of these players absolutely LOVES the music they’re making, as they should.  Not only is “Down Motown” another highlight example of Sawyer at their most danceable, but they’ve really included some awesome dimensions in sound here that really mattered to me.  Guitar-wise, you’ll get what could pretty much pass for a Dinosaur Jr. like solo tone-wise (Which is…amazing…to say the least) and a rhythm in the riffs like you’d find in The Strokes supporting the song at crucial times as well…seriously killer stuff on this final tune.  So it’s like…it’s like this bar-band style with a college-rock sound & indie-edge to it that could only be described as highly addictive to listen to.  Bass is thick and right on the money…vocals sound as amazing as when we first started the Soul City EP…backup vocals come through solidly to support and emphasize the warm energy this final cut is so gloriously filled with.

I’d be VERY excited if I was in Sawyer right now…as far as I’m concerned, everything I’ve heard on this EP points to a band that is extremely talented and can truly deliver on all-fronts when it comes to pure entertainment & soul in music.  Their phones should be ringing off the hook to book them into that next dive bar…or better yet, out there supporting acts like Nathaniel Rateliff or The Black Crowes right now on the larger stages this band sincerely deserves to be playing on.  I’m extremely interested in what’s kept them away for so long after recording their first song ten years ago and just now coming out with their debut record in November…this band has EVERY reason to believe it can make its mark on the people out there and leave a memorable impact on’em – these songs are absolutely fantastic and prove that playing with real heart, passion, & soul is a signature part of their sound, style, & mission in music.

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