Slow but steady
Turtlebone releases its new CD
By Bill Copeland firstname.lastname@example.org
Area band Turtlebone will celebrate the release of its new album Ramble + Sigh with a show Saturday, Sept. 15, at the IOKA Theater in Exeter.
Dave Steadman is a musical alchemist, blending unlikely elements in his edgy alt-rock band Turtlebone, a four-piece outfit featuring modern and traditional instruments that has been on the scene since 2001.
“I’m a huge fan of folk music, bluegrass, and old-time blues,” Steadman said. “I wanted to do something where I could root myself in the spirit of that music but also play rock at the same time. I’m a pretty big rock enthusiast as well. It’s always challenging to try to capture that spirit of the old-time music with an element of rock because rock can just get so noisy.”
Ramble + Sigh can remind the listener of Neil Young and The Band.
“Anything within the late ’60s throughout the ’70s rock genre. That’s the soundtrack of me growing up as a kid as well as anyone else that’s my age. Neil Young and The Band are definitely staples,” Steadman said.
Those earthy organic sound are taken a step further by Turtlebone with the traditional instruments.
“Turtlebone are definitely trying to go for more of the lonesome ballad side of the traditional music and this side of the blues. Our band is still big on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and the hard edgy rock,” he said.
Turtlebone’s instrumentation is clean and precise. Even when guitars whip up dark, thick texture, sharp edges hold sounds together. As a songwriter, Steadman relies heavily on his rhythm section to glue and drive home his ideas.
“I play a lot of slide guitar as a rhythm instrument. It’s a little bit oscillating,” Steadman said.
Most of Steadman’s ideas come from life experience that he develops like a novelist into broader tales.
“I wouldn’t say that everything I write is something I’ve lived through or intend to live through,” he said.
The new CD features the song “Call,” which describes a dire telephone conversation.
“I’d been estranged from one of my biological sisters for a couple of years and she was having a hard time. She was actually down in Alabama. That song was pretty much pleading with my sister to let me know that she’s OK,” he said.
Steadman and drummer Charles Farr rolled over into the band Turtlebone from another band.
“Charlie and I played in a band called Potter for seven years. When Potter disbanded, Charlie and I picked up other musicians,” he said.
Steadman and lead guitarist/banjoist Benjamin Canfield write songs separately and bring them nearly formed to the band.
“He’ll bring in the chord structure,” Steadman said. “Ben doesn’t really write the words out, but he’ll bring in the music to a piece and I’ll write for it, and the band will just help glue it together, make it happen. It’s listed on the record that they’re individual writers. The root of the song definitely come from one person. The band as a whole does a real good job of bringing it out. Though [bass and mandolin player] Shane [Carter] and [drummer] Charlie [Farr] don’t have any songs per se, they’re just an enormous part. I could go on for hours about just how much they bring to the band.”
Canfield contributes more songs than Turtlebone’s last lead guitarist, a welcome change for Steadman: “The last version of Turtlebone was three of us writing and all very different. Ben and I have very similar musical tastes. He leans more into the bluegrass side. He plays banjo. I’m more on the blues side, old-time.”
“When Ben and I are playing off each other, it works within that genre. There’s different styles from the past, but they all have this unified lonesome sound to the music which helps tie them together,” he said.
The first question on most anyone’s mind when they come into contact with Steadman’s band is where did they get the name Turtlebone.
“Turtles are my totem, my good luck charm in life,” Steadman said. “It’s an animal that takes its journey with me. The actual name Turtlebone: we’d seen an old farm sign, Chickenbone Farm. I’d said to me wife, some day I’ll have my Turtlebone Farm.”