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In case you didn't already know, from seeing the JAHC's fabulous posters up all over town, Twilight Hotel, "Canada's first couple of alt-retro countrified folk," are coming to town tomorrow to host a Halloween dance at Centennial Hall in support of the impending release of their newest album, "When The Wolves Go Blind."
This musical partnership of Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury is a hot ticket all the way from their native Manitoba to Austin, Texas, and they've come from a lot further than just over the mountains to arrive in Juneau this Friday night.
They've been performing as Twilight Hotel all over Canada, the Midwest and the West Coast since the release of their debut album, "Bethune," in 2006. It was an ambitious record that showcased a wide range of influences, from country to jazz and folk, with a distinct cabaret vibe and a darker electric edge, and they followed it up solidly with 2008's "Highway Prayer," a well-received sophomore album that saw them named as one of "9 artists to watch in '09" by Performing Songwriter Magazine. They've even been on tour in Europe, and in short, they are on the up-and-up as far as their artistry is concerned. But that's just their pedigree. It wouldn't mean much if they didn't have the chops to back it up. Which they do - in spades.
As I write this, I'm watching the duo tear up a tune from "Highway Prayer" called "No Place For A Woman" at a recent live performance in the Netherlands. Their harmonies are lush and keening, made even more so by the washes of reverb drenched sunnily over them, and their guitars - they both play guitar - mirror and support their voices with classic plucky, verb-soaked rockabilly tones. There's no drummer or bass player, but with Quanbury keeping the rhythm and Zdan on the slide guitar, it doesn't even matter. There's a deep back-beat, and they can swing. Hard. Zdan shreds the slide during the latter half of the tune, and doesn't miss a lick. Actually, I really like her change from minor to major and back again on this one - it's that kind of attention to composition and performance that really catches my eye as a fellow musician.
Another tune I checked out from that same record was "Slumber Queen." It's totally the dark, desert highway sound, distinctly more upbeat than many of the other tunes I listened to, with some Latin influences. It's got a great, emerging feel to the chorus, with big major chord swells that bring some sunlight to the sound, but quickly dips you back into the sexy, shaker-driven groove, back onto the highway and howlin' at the moon.
Which coincidentally brings us to their newest offering, "When the Wolves Go Blind." Like I said, it's set to debut this coming January, and from what I could tell listening to the new sounds on the "making of" video on their website, it's darker and more driving, with more fuzzed-out guitar tones and, according to their website, a stronger "sense of travel and reflection" than previous works. I'll certainly be downloading it when it drops. Especially if they decide to hook me up with a free copy (hint, hint!).
So - recap: Twilight Hotel. Halloween Dance, Friday night, 8 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Get tickets at www.jahc.org. It looks to be a real treat - better be there or the trick will be on you!
ŅTyler Preston is an Alaskan-bred bandleader and music columnist for the Juneau Empire. This column and its archives are available on his blog at tylerpreston.wordpress.com.