The best damn saloon-band this side of Wayne, Alberta: No River prefers rawhide to rhinestones. Half-cut and full-loaded, the Calgary-based five-piece makes light work of an honest day’s labour. Picking up somewhere between alt-country somnolence and folk punk bravado, they run down riffs like a barn cat going after a piece of tail.
“This affair started with Trenton and some friends who wanted to start a country band as a way to party during Stampede,” explains singer/songwriter/bassist Stewart Elton. “I’ve been playing together with Trenton for over 10 years and was quickly summoned to play bass. After a good two years or so of performing random covers, we had pretty much mastered the art of making just about anyone sound country. The progression went from doing straight-up versions of early classics, like Merle Haggard, to eventually trying to use that countrified style for other songs. We were having so much fun playing that after Stampede ended just we kept on going and eventually started writing original material.”
Rustling in mainstream fodder from hit-makers ranging from The Replacements to Garth Brooks, the jumped-up cover-project has set a prairie-fire on the lips of the Wild Turkey imbibing masses who swoon for the ensemble’s heady Western revivals. Testing the waters with their 2008 nine-track debut, Don’t Pray, the band won accolades for their deep rootsy tones, stirring refrains and superior instrumentation. Here, drunken laments and bar-stool ballads are elevated to legendary status. Heartfelt lyrical stories, clad in by bold yet worn-through melodies, which leave you moist with anticipation and limp with defeat.
“I think we gravitate towards songs that are deceptively easy, but sound outrageous when we present them live,” Elton surmises. “Sometimes we ask ourselves what we’re getting into, but then we just go for it. Now that there are five people in the band, I think we’re definitely playing rock music in a country style. We’re taking advantage of having banjos, lap steel and honky-tonk piano to get us where we want to go. And, we’re having a great time doing it.”
Though the sky may have been cloudless over their dusty trail, No River opened the floodgates by welcoming vocalist/keyboardist/morning DJ Chris Nevile to the fold in late 2011. Joining bassist Elton, percussionist Trenton Shaw, guitarist/lap steel/banjo player Lawrence Nasen and guitarist/vocalist Cody Swinkels, cougar-bait Nevile brings his own golden timbre (and swelling country organ) to the group’s double-proofed orchestral arrangements. Spurred on by the blessings of an innate yet rugged grace, a Marlborough Man’s laconic humour, and some seriously unironic moustaches, the gang with “Five Open Warrants” promises to return to the studio and begin recording a new album this fall. Until then, it’s a summer of rolling (in) the hay, splendour in the sagebrush and airbrushing Cimarron sunsets onto boogie vans across the nation.
“It’s gonna be a solid gold Canadian beaver summer,” Nevile affirms. “Canada Day and Stampede are going to be awesome and then we have a ten day tour out to Vancouver and back through Saskatchewan and Manitoba in middle of July. This time around, the plan is definitely to try to have some more rock jams to compliment our more introverted, sentimental, soul-digging stuff. We’re always trying out new material and we’re especially looking forward to unleashing this demon – this new crazy style that we’ve developed.”
Catch No River at the Ship and Anchor on July 26.
By Christine LeonardAB, Alberta