Guitarist Leo Dolan is the latest member of indie rock quintet Gonzo to go solo, turning down the volume and cranking up the introspection on his EP “Color Gradient.” He’ll play a release show at String Theory Music on Nov. 17 with fellow Gonzo guitarist Ryan Pickard and vocalist/pianist Simone Sandahl, who features heavily on the EP.
(In case you’re wondering: Yes, Gonzo is still in the process of moving to Los Angeles — singer Rickey Havern and bassist Jack Tobias are already there, Dolan said via email.)
“Color Gradient” may be even more of a departure from Dolan’s classic-rock influenced main band than Pickard’s Palo Sopraño project. Dolan strips these six songs down to acoustic-guitar skeletons, with occasional piano, electric guitar and violin adding flourishes of color. In this more nuanced setting, Dolan gets to show off some subtle guitar chops: He has an ear for slightly unusual arpeggios and chord changes that take songs such as opener “Walking on a Wire” and “Pickle Jar” in unexpected directions.
Thematically, the record seems to be aiming for the literate folk of Leonard Cohen or Nick Drake — the second track “Sleep” features some particularly Drake-esque guitar playing, though the song moves into more modern territory by its end. “Owl Song” is the most stripped-down number here, and the most introspective, with Dolan wrestling with heartbreak and anxiety.
Sandahl’s contributions also deserve mention; her harmonies brighten every song here, particularly “Sunflower,” the sleeper standout of the EP.
Featuring a winning hook from Dolan and Sandahl and gently building electric guitar, piano and violin, the track would sound right at home on any modern indie-folk-rock playlist.
Leo Dolan EP release show: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17; $5 suggested donation; String Theory Music, 1291 NW Wall St., Bend; stringtheorymusicbend.com or 541-678-0257.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin