CD Review: Straw Dogs “Love And Then Hope”

The Seattle-based Straw Dogs came together when musicians Dave von Beck and Darren Smith combined their talents to compose original songs. Their music becomes a reality when bassist Eric Bryson and drummer Casey Miller add their parts to the compositions.

The sound of the band Straw Dogs exists somewhere between folk and rock, where the songs created by the band are equal parts melody and carefully written lyrics that help to tell a story or describe a situation.

Together, the four musicians that make up Straw Dogs create a sound that is acoustic in nature. Their sound becomes deeper when studio musicians are added to help expand that sound. The resulting mixture of these elements came together on the band’s 2009 release entitled Love And Then Hope.

Love And Then Hope, the current release from Straw Dogs, is an album that brings together influences from both rock artists and folk artists. Add in the occasional steel guitar and/or banjo, and you have a sound that fans of The Eagles will find very familiar.
Love And Then Hope from Straw Dogs starts with one of the strongest compositions on the release- “Lie Awake”. The song begins with a drum loop that includes not only drums, but also the bass, which was used for a percussive effect. To make up for the missing bass lines, Phil Hirsch’s cello playing was used to fill in the sound where the bass should have been. Together as a whole, the four main musicians plus Hirsch create a track that starts the album off in the right direction. And the track’s message of desperately wanting someone even while they sleep is inspiring.

With Straw Dogs being a folk rock group, some of the songs on Love And Then Hope are obviously heavy in the folk mindset. One such song that fits in that mindset is “Fire Outside”.

As Dave von Beck is a Southern California native, the song “Fire Outside” was written in response to the wildfires that happened in California back in 2007. In the song, von Beck wrote the ballad while using the love he felt towards a lover with the fire that was burning not that far away from him.

While some of the songs on Love And Then Hope from Straw Dogs venture into the folk genre, many of the songs on the release were written more in the vein of ballads. The majority of the tracks have some sort of romantic theme to them. The aforementioned “Lie Awake” finds the singer longing for the chance to spend time with the person currently slumbering next to him. Other tracks on the release deal with instances of pleasure or pain when dealing with love.

The song “Waiting By The Gate” is a song about someone who finds himself lost after a relationship ended too soon. It is his decision that upon reaching his end as well, he will wait by the gate of Heaven for the chance to reunite with his true love. By contrast, the song “Sure of Goodbye” is about finding a letter that leaves no hope of reconciliation.

Every once-in-a-while, it is good to step away from bands that use electric guitars and amplifiers to create their music. The folk rock created by Straw Dogs has just as much energy as anything from the harder groups.

The fourteen tracks that make up the Love And Then Hope release from Straw Dogs give the listener a nice indication of what writers Dave von Beck and Darren Smith can do when they combine their efforts. And with the songs on the release containing many different elements, the resulting tracks make for a solid and entertaining release.