Review: Silver Torches Balance the Easygoing and Blazing-Hot with ‘Heatherfield’


The fabulous juxtaposition of shimmering string sounds over thundering drum grooves is reflective of the name of Seattle-based band Silver Torches, and the sound of their album Heatherfield, released January 2016, where delicate silver strings and vocals are naturally contrasted by fiery torched percussion and passion emanating from ever orifice.

Silver Torches is the brain child of singer songwriter Erik Walters, whose raspy tenor is reminiscent of JD Souther and songwriting is akin to Jackson Brown. He is joined by drummer Sean Lane, Emily Westman on piano, and Henri Bardot on organ, to create a smooth but robust Americana sound. The eight-track album is a soothing sonic delight in our overly-compressed world. Recorded and produced by Steven Aguilar in Seattle at Sound House Studio, as well as The Hall of Justice on Orcas Island, and then Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI, Seattle, Brooks add some tasty pedal steel to a track, a finer crafted set of songs would be hard to find.

The set kicks off with the rambling narrative of the self-discovery anthem “Women in Rust.” Walters then continues the groove with a touch more muscle on the electric guitar-laden “Cal,” a song of reminiscing and regret. The stream-of-consciousness narrative “Dearborn” builds slowly on acoustic guitar, then adds details of the landscape and a big Springsteen-like bombast to its crescendo. Walters pushes his falsetto for the lament of a lost opportunity with an almost Irish lilt that is the lovely tune “New Year.” With a straight-ahead groove and chorus, “Old Friend” is one of the only conventional songs in the set, but its heartfelt sentiment and lush chords are enduring. The sublime instrumental “Cowen” sits just off the center of the set, built off the trio of guitar, piano and drums, and paints an idyllic pastoral scene.

Lane delivers a dancing march beat while Walters once again plays on the theme of past regrets and lost dreams for “I Was a King.” You hear the cars pass by on the mournful album closer “State Route 27,” like waves crashing on beach in an endless procession of futility that Walters paints as the dream of life in anywhere in the United States.

(Heatherfield is available via Silver Torches’ Bandcamp page through a pay-what-you-want model. You can stream the track “Dearborn” below.)

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Rick Bowen

Rick grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan playing in school band, choir and show bands. While earning a BA at Western Michigan University in History and Social Science, he was a member of the Bronco marching band and jazz ensemble Gold Company. Moving to the Northwest in 1994, Rick soon landed gigs and sessions with many diverse local artists and is currently a member of the award winning Stacy Jones Band and the host of the all ages School of Jam. Rick is also an associate producer and session musician for Critical Sun Recordings, a contributing writer at Innocent Words, Seattle Examiner, No Depression, The Washington Blues Society and S.T.E.A.M magazine, and serves on the board of directors for the Washington Blues Society. Rick is endorsed by and plays THUMPER CUSTOM DRUMS. Awards: Washington Blues Society “Best of the Blues” award 2009 Best New Band –Stacy Jones Band WBS “Best of the Blues” award 2012 Best Blues Jam - Oxford Saloon Monday Night Jam 2013 & 2014 WBS Best Blues Writer award. 2014 WBS Chris Leighton Blues Drummer BB Award. Nominations: 2009 & 2013 Best Blues Drummer WBS BB awards. 2012 Best NW recording “No Need To Spell it Out –Stacy Jones Band (Rick J Bowen co producer)

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