Concord roots rockers find a studio groove
By Michael Witthaus firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ron Noyes Band’s gutsy, blues-infused brand of rock has allowed them to succeed where many area bands falter — playing mostly original music for crowds expecting covers.
The Concord quartet’s material “seems familiar, even on first listen,” said Josh Tuohy, who called them “one of the best young groups in New Hampshire.” Tuohy regularly books Noyes and his band mates — Tim Gray, Chuck Tufankjian and Jarrod Taylor — into his Lebanon and Newport bars, including the only appearances scheduled between now and April, as they scale back on performing to focus on finishing their first studio work in four years.
“We’re laying low right now,” Noyes said recently from his Concord home. “We’ll just play enough to knock out the rent, and give our full attention to the album.”
The still-unnamed record should be released in June. Lyrically, it’s a very personal work, Noyes said.
“It’s definitely darker than things I’ve put out before, just because things have been crazy.” His output so far includes the solo Mosaic (2002) and band works Something Else (2004) and Come Hell or High Water (2006).
Stylistically, Noyes is a jagged journey along Route 66. He cites Otis Redding and Jeff Buckley as vocal inspirations, while taking songwriting cues from tragic Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt. The latter influence shows on three rough mixes currently streaming on the band’s MySpace page.
“I’m not the only man without a map in his hand,” Noyes sings on “Last to Know,” and he later speaks of “this brutal game we call love” on “The Wait,” a roiling track with elements of Ryan Adams and Dire Straits.
The best of the bunch is “Anchors for Angels,” a brooding song about love, loss and longing. Opening with an elegiac acoustic guitar figure, Noyes seems to walk a razor’s edge of hope and hopelessness. “With you even in my rearview no I won’t die alone,” he sings as the music builds and accelerates. “Your memory’s the company I keep around these days.”
“That’s been a really successful tune for us at our shows,” Noyes said.
Selections for the 11-track album include “Asleep at the Wheel,” an old-time country number that Noyes calls “barely autobiographical,” the up-tempo “Out of Range” and “Mea Culpa,” a song that draws a consistently good audience response at their shows.
Noyes won’t elaborate on the subject matter much beyond saying that it comes from his own life.
“I don’t like to show my hand as a writer,” he said. “You gotta take what’s going on and veil it as much as you can.”
The band signed a deal with New Hampshire indie label Round Cat Records in November, and has been working on the new record at Studio 114 in Bedford. They hope to replicate their success in Europe, where Something Else made a big splash in the Americana charts.
Noyes wouldn’t mind more attention of the sort he got a few years back from John Popper, who picked up a copy of Come Hell or High Water during an area visit. Through acquaintances Noyes learned that the Blues Traveler leader hoped to see the band live.
“I ran into him, and I told him we were playing,” Noyes said. “He went home and listened to the whole album all day, came out to the show and when he walked in the door we made eye contact. He came ready to play.” Popper sat in on two of the band’s original tunes.
“He’s an experienced musician, and we sat back and let him do his thing,” Noyes said. “When it came time, we gave him space, and he just ripped it. It was awesome.”
Work on the new album is progressing well.
“We’ve got all the drums and bass done, and we’re doing some acoustic and electric stuff right now. We’re going to bring in some strings on a couple tracks,” said Noyes, who sandwiches studio time into an extensive schedule of teaching guitar lessons.
Noyes finds the transition from the stage to the studio occasionally nerve-wracking, but mostly exhilarating.
“If you’re playing a show you can just kind of let it rip, whereas in the studio everything’s under a microscope — once you lay it down it’s going to be there forever, so you gotta be careful,” he said. “But there’s a nice freedom in that the final product is going to be exactly what you want it to be.”