Ken’s Pick: Balthrop Alabama & The Bandana Splits
We Have Electricity. That’s the name of Balthrop Alabama’s latest full-length album. In fact, with a series of lovely EPs, and their debut being a double album, it could be considered their only full-length outing (technically speaking). And true to its name, it does pulse with some power.
In the mid-2000s’, brother & sister co-founders Pascal & Lauren Balthrop moved to Brooklyn and soon formed a band. But the forming of their band was also the forming of a town – a fictitious, self-named town — where every resident is the ‘wacky neighbor’ and they’re all awesome musicians.
The population of Balthrop Alabama is ever growing and ever rotating. Some of the outstanding regulars, in addition to the Balthrops themselves, are: Chris Buckridge (bass), Alex Suarez (sax), Josh Kaufan (keys), Andrew Vladeck (banjo), Annie Nero (bass), Theresa Cox (accordian), Mike Quoma (guitar), Matt Moon (sax), and Jason Lawrence (drums). They even have a town illustrator, Michael Arthur, depicting all the action of every live show in a style that’s part whimsical cartoon and part courtroom sketch.
Balthrop Alabama’s recent album, We Have Electricity, appears to be a proclamation of sorts. One take could be that a small southern town need not be judged only by its cozy charm and wide-open spaces — as they also have running water, HBO and an Apple store. Or maybe it harks to the joyous, awestruck feeling people must have had when electricity finally reached their community and Edison bulbs first flickered to life along Main Street. Of course, you could certainly also view it like the much debated and historic musical left-swerve of Bob Dylan in ‘65 when he defiantly “went electric.”
Balthrop’s statement might be less middle-finger than that, but it’s a statement none-the-less. In comparison to their previous releases, We Have Electricity is a little deeper, a little more outer-spacey, and yes, a little more “electric.” It shows an overall evolution of sound. Balthrop has gained loyal fans with their well-written, danceable, indie-singer/songwriter music, but this recording shows that there is a whole lot more to them, and hopefully, a whole lot more to come.
Saturday night’s show at the Living Room will continue after Balthrop’s set with the magnetic retro trio The Bandana Splits, made up of Balthrop’s own Lauren Balthrop and Annie Nero, and the equally excellent Dawn Landes. With matching outfits, a strumming ukulele and luscious 3-part harmonies, the ladies conjure the spirit of those fantastic female trios of the 30’s and 40’s. Beyond their clear-as-a-bell voices and chemistry with each other, they’re affable, funny and know how to work a crowd. So, prepare yourself to be worked.
Saturday, April 28 // 11pm // FREE // 154 Ludlow Street
Splitting his time between performing and producing, contributor Ken Beasley primarily plays with his own roots/rock band, Ken Beasley & Co., as well as the power punk outfit,Missy Sport, while also curating the Underground at the Abrons music series on the Lower East Side.