Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens has kept busy over the past few years playing his part in George and Caplin and Wentworth Kersey, which both released records last year. Somewhere in between, he's found the time to write and record not just one solo album, but two (due out on July 13) that both mange to encompass the variety of styles at play in his bands, while forging new ground.
"I wanted to experiment with different sounds," says Stevens, "and free myself to do whatever I wanted. That ended up going in two completely directions." So, with two different genres playing against each other, Steven decided to split the album into two EPs and add a slight, but noticeable concept to each.
"The concept is borrowed a bit from 'The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,'" Stevens explains. "But it's 'Town Mouse/Desert Mouse.'" The first EP Highway Driveway, slated to be released by Plastic Sound Supply in hand-sewn cases, takes the concept of a road trip out of the desert and runs with it. Musically, it's more in line with what you'd expect from George and Caplin, but a bit dirtier and a bit more raw. It's the more electronic sounding of the two, and judging from the one track available now, "Trotting Along," it's going to fall somewhere between Boards of Canada and Tortoise.
The second album, released under the nom de plume, JJango Cleefworth Morriconez (a combination of Django Reinhardt, Lee Van Cleef and Ennio Morricone?), The Poquito Pioneer will see a release by Wil-Ru Records in Portland digitally and as a cassette. This one follows the concept of a '74 Oldsmobile traveling into the desert and finding refuge among roadside vendors and immigrant folk tales.
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Unlike Highway Driveway, it comes from a more psychedelic rock base -- the preview track, "Desert Prayer," certainly evokes the emotion of long road trips through the desert with its meandering guitar, whispered vocals and repeating chords.
It's no secret that when musicians used to being in bands decide to release a solo album they tend to be a bit scatterbrained, which is exactly how these two records started off. But by introducing the concepts into the mix, Stevens was able to focus it a bit more. "The concepts aren't narrative based, really," adds Stevens, "but I wanted to ground the songs and pull them together with something."