CD Review: Bethesda “Dreamtiger & Other Tails”

 The Greater Cleveland, OH band Bethesda is known for their blending of sounds and styles in their music. Part folk, part indie, part pop, Bethesda takes these genres and blends them together to create a sound that is modern, retro, artsy, and altogether beautiful all at once.

The band’s sound is made possible with the help of the members of the group. Together, they are: Shanna Delaney on vocals and bells, Eric Ling on rhythm guitar, vocals, bells, horns and keys, Jesse Sloan on lead guitar, vocals, bells and keys, Justin Rife on drums and percussion, Dan Corby on bass, and Estee Beasley on violin. The unusual instruments of bells, horns and violin used by the band help create a sound that is very unique and creative.

And then, there are Shanna Delaney’s vocals: She has a voice that sounds like it came from a time gone by. Her voice could easily remind you of female vocalists who would have recorded with bands and band leaders back in the Big Band era. The clear quality of Delaney’s voice really helps enforce the power of the lyrics to the band’s songs. Together with Delaney’s voice, the band’s sound is definitely like nothing you’ve come across before.

Since the band came together, Bethesda has released three CDs. Currently, the band is touring on their newest one, 2011’s Dreamtiger & Other Tails, a five-song EP.

Dreamtiger & Other Tails from Bethesda begins with the track “A Song for the Peasant Farmer”. The first track off of the EP is a classic Indie rock song that features Delaney as the lead singer of the track. The track begins with a solid Rock and Roll approach. But that approach is quickly changed once the band’s unique blend of instrumentation starts to shape the song. For instance, the use of the glockenspiel by Jesse Sloan on the song really gives the song a sound that is part rock and orchestral. That unusual use of unique instrumentation is matched with the drastic change of pace from the beginning of the song to a much slower pace near the end. But it’s that change of pace that guarantees that the song never gets stagnant.

The song “Oh, How We Crane Our Throats” is one of the songs on the newest release from Bethesda that proves that the band’s sound is much more than just indie rock. Take an indie feel to the music, add some banjo and violin and you get a song that has a very Americana approach. But the foot-stomping beat created by the band on the song is a lot harder than your average Americana tune.

With the song “Homage,” the band slows the pace down quite a bit. “Homage” is a folk-flavored song that features a minimal amount of musical instruments that include guitar, bass and violin. With a overall sound that might have you thinking of the refrain from “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm” from Crash Test Dummies, the slow-paced song is like a beautiful letter to those who made you You. Shanna sings the lyrics to this rather beautifully and really make you feel the emotion of the words.

After taking a few minutes to perform a very beautiful song, the band once again picks up the pace. While “Homage” is a tune that has a very simply sound and approach to the music, “Upon This Rock” on the Dreamtiger & Other Tails release from Bethesda has a harder sound and once again finds the band in an indie frame of mind. Along with Delaney’s vocals, the song also features the vocals of lead guitarist Eric Sloan as he sings his part as a duet with Delaney. The trumpet playing of rhythm guitarist Eric Ling also gives the song a very indie feel.

Dreamtiger & Other Tails comes to a close with the song that helps give the release its name. “Dreamtiger” begins with the sound of the organ and quickly segues into a track that almost sounds like something from the Austin, Texas band of Sixpence None the Richer, except that there is much more to the track. The song features a strong Adult Contemporary feel to the music and starts off with a gentle feel to the pace before the members of the band pick up both the energy and pace of the track. At over five minutes of playtime, “Dreamtiger” is probably the strongest song on the album and could easily be thought of as the song that truly allows the listener to hear the talent of all musicians involved. The rock music created by the band, the violin playing of Estee Beasley and the beautiful vocals of Shanna Delaney combine on this song to create the best track on this release.

Dreamtiger & Other Tails from Greater Cleveland’s Bethesda is only five songs long. And because of that, it comes to a close much faster than you realize. This is the type of release where you get so many different sides of a band that you really wish the album was longer.

 

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