Dry River Yacht Club’s El Tigre Goes Global

One of my favorite albums of last year was Dry River Yacht Club’s El Tigre and I think this was true of many of us lucky enough to live in Arizona and enjoy the local music scene. This past Tuesday, Dry River Yacht Club released El Tigre for the rest of the world to enjoy. That’s right, the album many of us have come to love after months of heavy rotation is now available for purchase on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon, bandcamp, soundcloud, Rdio and ready for streaming on YouTube and Spotify. In short, it’s everywhere now. EVERYWHERE. Dry River Yacht Club is very special to me and they are the only band, so far, that has had three full length features in JAVA Magazine over the last six years that I’ve been documenting local music. I find each release completely compelling and with each volume of their voyage they seem to outdo themselves effortlessly. I truly hope the rest of the world takes notice of this album and enjoys it as much as we do. You can listen to the entire records below and feel free to read the review between here and there.

Over four years ago I wrote my first review of Dry River Yacht Club concerning their debut full length album The Ugliest Princess—it was kind of the deal breaker with my love of local music. After that review I haven’t written anything for JAVA Magazine other than local reviews of the recordings and performances by our astounding music community in Arizona. At that point the band had an EP and an album under their belt and they were only two years in to their existence. They are now six years in and the energy, the sheer verve of this gypsy collective is unabated—if nothing else, after all this time they’ve truly come in to their own. I described them in 2009 as a “mix of Eastern European folk music, Americana, combined with a bit of Gypsy rock, dashes of jazz, classical, cabaret and even a touch of Spanish spice[that] is truly like nothing out there today” and four years on I stand by that today. They are “Indie Gypsy Americana Rock” as I stated in another article and on their new album El Tigre, the Americana side comes out stronger than ever before, for the betterment of their sound on this round as the Dry River Yacht Club is sailing into new territory and the discovery of these unfound horizons is a wonderful audio treat for fans of the band and newcomers alike.

In those years the band has both transformed its sound and its lineup. On El Tigre DRYC now consists of Garnet  (Vocals), Fred Reyes (Bass Clarinet) Kristilyn Woods (bassoon), Corey Gloden (Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, 12 String Guitar),  Zach Lewis (Bass Trombone), Ben Allred  (Violin, Viola), Paul Cordone (Bass Guitar) and Henri Benard (Drum Kit, Percussion). The newer members of the band definitely show off their chops on this release: Corey Gloden’s guitar work is golden and Zach Lewis’ trombone is a startlingly great addition. One welcome addition to the fold is Paul Calderone on bass AKA PC, who I thought was their roadie for the first year and who told me personally in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t like me in any capacity. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from loving everything he touches musically or otherwise. I just love good music and I don’t confuse attitudinal trajectories with altitudinal position.

It’s a shift in personnel and a smooth shift in sound, less indie and more professional, but anyone that’s ever dealt with  DRYC knows they handle themselves in nothing but a professional way—they save their hijinx for the times after the gig, after the session, after the show and thankfully so.  The only detraction of the new album is that it’s not entirely new: “Pockets Full of Gold” and “Novella De Cannibal” are reprised from The Ugliest Princess, while “Dead Mother Dearest” is committed to the studio after the live version on the Family Portraits EP and the new version of “El Tigre” is radically different from the single release earlier this year. This would be a crying shame, except that producer Craig Schumacher at Wavelab Studios has sculptured this entire album into a consistent, conscientiously beautiful work of art.

I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for a studio version of “Dead Mother Dearest” and with this release I get it with the opening track. I guess there are those of those of us who go to to DRYC shows and dance and there are others that dance and ask “wait, do I have this version of this song on my laptop?” We all dance regardless. It must be said that this is Garnet at her freaking , psychotic best on every level—the bridge most of all, but the band has never been tighter and yet her vocals are absolutely terrifying in the best way possible. What follows is the third version of “Pocket Full of Gold” to see release and it is, in my mind the very best. Garnet’s vocal are way up front and when they’re not, Ben Allred and Fred Reyes are right there, holding your ear, especially Allred’s violin—Christ, it’s amazing. It is an extravaganza for Reyes’ woodwind works as well, but wow—this is a simply stunning work by the entire band. Third time is a charm.

Photo by John Ehret

When “The Legend of  El Tigre” was released as a single I could not have been happier, in fact I played it all over the radio like mad, wrote about it at length—but that single release is simply a shadow in comparison to it final album version. This version provides a depth vocally provided by Garnet but, musically directed by Schumacher that beats the “original” all to hell—here is where the rock comes in and it’s pretty amazing in its final moments.  The revisited “Novella De Cannibal” is better than ever before and well, hell, Garnet’s vocals are certainly more astounding (and creepy)—keep in mind this is a recipe, but now the music backs the nightmareland in which this song dwells so perfectly it may well haunt your soul for quite some time.

The Americana comes on full and strong with the second half opener of “Garden”, which may be the loveliest song both lyrically and musically that DRYC has ever committed to record. It is a song about gardening and love and it is filled with a raw emotion, a truth and honesty that has been missing amidst their tale of rats and pirates. Maybe it’s the latter fact that makes me feel that this is simply one of their greatest accomplishments—there is no dread, no vermin, no spiders, there is love instead, not just in the lyrics, but in the music as well. It is a refreshing addition to their now growing canon.  I have to add that this is the one thing that shows their growth not only as a band, but as human beings.

The gypsy rock returns on “Pollen” as Garnet once more seduces you into a midnight garden with her voice alone, the band backing her every step of the way to entreat toward her voice that serves as the light to follow, like a dazed moth to the light. Alred’s violin riffs get you going long before the brass serves you well, of course Benard’s drums are ticking away, but when the vocals kick in, its goddamn transportational. This is pure insect love, under moonlight and only Dry River Yacht Club could do that in pure black and white.

Steeped deeply in Americana, “When Your Down” is perhaps their best homage to a time lost upon modernity where yodeling was not only acceptable, but appreciated and the recorded setting  sounds like a saloon. This comes off as a buried treasure from another era, hell, another century all together and yet the mood and content is somehow still fitting for today. This is a pure dreamy drinking song, best spent sideways, poolside in sunshine with a gut full of wine. It also gets stuck in my head for days on end. Nothing in that last song or any song previous could prepare you, however, for “Isabella.” This is, simply stated, the best song Dry River Yacht Club has ever written, recorded or produced…period. It is everything they are, everything they should be and everything they should strive to continue to be. I’ve heard every song they have ever recorded, every  song they have ever released, I’ve seen them play a hundred times and when I heard this at the album release party at Last Exit Live this past September I nearly lost my mind—this is their beautiful future in one song. It also makes clear how important their recent drafts are in crafting their very immediate sound. El Tigre is a solid triumph in sound and vision, they have further established themselves as true artists collectively creating a unique textural art crafted to make love to your ears, capture your hearts and inspire your imagination. What the hell can they possibly do next? Whatever it is, I have a suspicion it will unwittingly outdo this and that sets my mind on fire.