The name is as unique as the man carrying it: Walter Salas-Humara! Almost 30 years ago this multi-talented, open-minded and stylistically versatile artist entered the stage as the charismatic singer and songwriter of alt.country rock pioneers The Silos. In retrospect they were enormously influential in the burgeoning, underground scene that blossomed into the Americana movement. In all these years, Walter Salas-Humara has revived The Silos countless times, released numerous band albums and has participated in so many projects that it’s hard to believe his new solo album Curve And Shake is only his third album under his own name – the first in 18 years.
The Silos from New York belonged to a cadre of critics’ darlings bands that were – not unlike the Velvet Underground, the later Byrds, Television, the Feelies or Green On Red – ahead of their time and simply too good to sell their highly influential music in the quantities they would have deserved. With their early albums (Cuba!), they provided smart, catchy, classy indie-pop-meets-country-rock that wowed the critics and repeatedly found their way into year’s end best lists. The 90s were influenced by Salas-Humara’s restlessness and experimental mindset.
He moved in rapid succession from New York to L.A. and then to Austin which led to personnel changes, stylistic upheavals and some highs and lows in the quality of their recorded output. When alt.country, No Depression and Americana boomed, The Silos were but one band among many and had to reclaim their status and territory as musical mavericks. This happened with their relocation to Brooklyn and a series of strong albums on Blue Rose between 2001 and 2006. After a remarkably free-thinking folk/pop/electronica/hiphop/poetry project in 2008 with famed author Jonathan Lethem under the project name “I’m Not Jim”, Walter Salas-Humara once again left New York and settled in Flagstaff, AZ. The newly-assembled Silos broke big in 2011 with the excellent, powerful Florizona album.
And now there’s Curve & Shake, not a new chapter in the never-ending story of the Silos but a multi-faceted solo album. Comparable to earlier solo outings Lagartija (1988) and Radar (1995), Walter Salas-Humara had amassed a number of songs that didn’t seem particularly suited for a Silos album but rather asked for a special treatment. This seems to offer Salas-Humara greater freedom for individual arrangements, diverse musical moods, greater stylistic range. The ten songs of Curve & Shake – some of which he considers among the best of his career – were mostly co-written with friends and colleagues and recorded in studio sessions with local musicians in Flagstaff and Portland, Or. The basic band consists of the rhythmically interesting Westcoast trio GrooveSession (Sarven Manguiat/guitar etc., Ronnie Sanchez/bass, Manny Sanchez/drums, backing vocals all of them) with keyboarder Ryan Williams and Walter’s Portland-based nephew Charlie Salas-Humara (Panther, Sun Angle, Grapefruit) who contributes atmospheric synthesizers. He also recorded with Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons, a well-known jam/rock band, innovative guitarist Jason Victor (of Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3), percussion ace Wally Ingram on congas and girlfriend Amy Dagget on backing vocals.
‚Counting On You’ starts out as an endearing, relaxed opener that segues into the off-the-cuff, tricky psych rock of ‘The Craziest Feeling’, co-written with Jerry Joseph and recorded with his band, with Jason Victor providing the distinctive fluid solo. The same setup later turns in the five-plus minutes of ‘What We Can Bring’, an opulent rock ballad with four guitars, keyboards and rhythm section, anchored by Victor’s & Joseph’s Southern Rock-style twin leads. Devoted fans know ‘Hoping For A Comeback’ and ‘Uncomplicated’ from the ‘I’m Not Jim’ project’s 2008 release ‘You Are All My People’. Both tracks were completely overhauled and brought much closer to a Silos-type sound. The same is true of ‘Two Inches Two Hours’, another track co-written with Jonathan Lethem. ‚I Love That Girl’ is a moving solo number, sung with an unadorned, scratchy voice, accompanied only by Ryan Williams on keys. The title track ‘Curve And Shake’ is also sparsely arranged with acoustic guitar, percussion and e-piano but features a gorgeous hook line. Along with the folk pop of ‘Satellite’, it sounds like a forgotten Silos jewel. ‘Way Too Heavy To Float’ is a complex ballad with lots of input from GrooveSession mastermind Sarven Maguiat and intricate backing vocals. This is certainly one of the songs Salas-Humara has every reason to be proud of.
In total, Curve And Shake is a convincing album with lots of beautiful details worth exploring. Walter Salas-Humara undoubtedly remains an important figure and creative force on the independent and Americana scene.
Curve & Shake will be available through our webshop and in fine selected stores all over Europe on August 15.