CD Review: Take What You Can Carry by The Local Strangers

Local StrangersMusic Review: The Local Strangers ‘Take What You Can Carry’

Due out March 3rd, this self-released two CD set was recorded at Jupiter Studios with Martin Feveyear, is the bands 2nd full length album and they are selling out venues all over the Pacific Northwest.

Disc 1: The full 5-piece band plays 11 songs with Aubrey Zoli on vocals, Matt Hart – vocals and guitar, Justin Howard – Drums, Mike DeBenedictis – Guitar & Banjo and Ethan Sobotta – Bass.

Disc 2: Aubrey and Matt recorded the 11 songs live at the Ballard Homestead with Jonas G. in front of an enthusiastic audience, who listened intensely, then erupted into applause at the end of each song. It’s obvious the crowd loves them.

I listened to disc 2 first, so I could get a feel for the songs by listening to them in their most basic form. What I learned from that first listen was that Aubrey has a vibrant, sturdy voice and Matt can really rock the acoustic guitar! Both formats are fun and exciting, the ability to do them both well is impressive. One must have a very strong, prepared voice to sing live and sound great. The stories that these songs tell are all described in such a clear fashion, with the words articulated so well that I can see the stories play out in my mind.

I found the differences between the two versions interesting, with some songs sounding very much alike and others that sounded quite different.  “Gasoline” is a robust and uplifting rock song with Aubrey singing high and Matt in a low, almost monotone harmony in some places.  It is very sweet and beautiful with the singing styles more distinct. “Crown” is a rock song with Justin Howard’s tenacious drumming. In the acoustic version Matt uses his guitar and Aubrey claps her hands to give you the quick beat, making me want to do the Tango. “My friend, I used to call you my friend. Over backwards I would bend, just to make you happy”.

“Goodbye/Goodnight” has Hart as frontman with both electric and acoustic guitars playing, highlighting the electric during some vocal pauses. Played live, this is more of an upbeat folk song. “Red Dress” is a vivacious song that begins with some slow, electric guitar singing. It’s a very quick song so when you know the words well and can sing along, it really is a fun song to sing. This is a rock/country/blues song and whether you hear it acoustic or electric, it still is all three. “When the rain, rain, rain comes pouring down I said take that cold black gun and put that bastard in the ground!” The song “Rip Tide” tells a story about moving on, after love. Both versions are very similar with a pop/folk sound. Yet, the plugged-in version displays the Banjo adding depth.

“Always Me” is pretty energetic, but live it’s a much more subdued version, yet they still rock it. “Nail him down to the floorboards and make him stay”. “Pilot Light” has Hart in the forefront and Zoli singing harmony. While both versions sound basically the same, the Banjo on disc 1 makes it much more uplifting. “Up In Smoke” with a fast paced beat and great guitar riffs make this is a very electrifying tune. Hart is brilliant at doing this in an acoustic setting with his guitar, but I’m sure it gives his fingers quite a workout. “You treated me like cocaine honey, a drug you could abuse. I craved you just like heroin or a dance with a hangman’s noose”.

“Touchstone”  is a great song and I really loved it!  The story is beautiful and Aubrey sings this with all of her heart and soul, with Matt adding his beautiful harmony. All instruments are playing, guitars are ringing out with energy with some awesome DeBenedictis solos. It is a huge production. The acoustic version is quite simpler, utilizing only a guitar and their voices accentuating the words. Very sweet and woeful. I really love both versions.

“W.W.” has a very mysterious heavy rock sound and an evil feel. The version on Disc 1 has vocal breaks giving the guitar, bass and drums time to shine through, with DeBenedictis’ mesmerizing solos. In the live version Matt Hart just tears up that acoustic guitar. Strumming, picking, tapping, banging and driving it hard, mimicking the loud excitement you get from the studio version. The harmony is unbelievable, both of them singing loud and with confidence. Zoli’s voice on the acoustic is reminiscent of Anne Lennox. “So close your eyes, there’s no place to hide. I will hunt you down, you better run for your life”.

“1947” is an awesome song, beautifully written and it gives me the chills! No matter how you sing it, no matter how you play it, both versions are wonderfully sorrowful. Disc #2 has a bonus song called  “Uptown”  That is obviously a fan favorite as I can hear everyone singing along. “I remember how I’d measure me and what more that a man could be and I, keep you guessing all the time”. It is a very fun and happy addition. A great end to a wonderful album.

All of the songs were written by Matt Hart and Aubrey Zoli and this great CD is definitely worth a listen or two.





Tracy Salsbery

Tracy's love of music began as a child growing up in California’s Bay Area. The 1970s was an explosion of different music styles with everything from Led Zeppelin to Joni Mitchell to Al Green and her parents listened to all of it, leaving her with an eclectic taste in music. Her passion for great music comes from the happiness that it brings to people who listen and the talented musicians that play it. You can find her on LinkedIn here:

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