This week, check out Precious Byrd’s second EP, “Wolves,” and take a look back at Company Grand’s “Table Scraps” EP, released in February.
Since forming in 2013, Bend sextet Precious Byrd has seemingly cornered the market on dance-rock covers in Central Oregon. Even as the city has embraced more original bands in recent years, Precious Byrd maintained a strong presence as a go-to act for the area’s myriad street festivals and outdoor shows, earning a rabid following throughout the Northwest.
With a stacked lineup of local players, including Grammy-winning bassist Lonnie Chapin, saxophonist Andy Warr (known for his work on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”), drummer Michael Summers, lead guitarist Derek Williams, singer Corey Parnell and rhythm guitarist Casey Parnell, it makes sense that the group has found its way to writing its own material. The six-song “Wolves” EP, which drops at a sold-out album release show at Volcanic Theatre Pub on Saturday, follows 2016’s “Superphonic Magical” and continues that EP’s modern pop feel, only with much more assured production (thanks to Los Angeles producer Jonathan Smith), performances and songwriting.
This time out, the band leans more toward synth-pop, though its rock roots are firmly on display on songs such as the punchy title track and “Pockets,” a mid-album highlight that begins as a pseudo-power ballad before building to one of the EP’s strongest hooks (one of those swear-you’ve-heard-it-before earworms that keeps digging in deeper with repeated listens).
With the exception of the piano-driven “Don’t Run Me Hot,” the group keeps the energy flowing throughout — most songs clock in around the 3-minute mark, with Corey Parnell’s smooth croon taking the spotlight. The album closes with “Vultures,” a funk-rock workout (and another highlight) that showcases Chapin and Summers’ fierce playing.
Bend’s theatrical R&B group Company Grand, which formed in 2014 as the house band for Bend Burlesque, is currently working on its debut studio album. Bassist Tyler Cranor teased the new material, which will expand the group’s sound into “voodoo funk” and “nuevo New Orleans” jazz, as more political than previous songs. Expect a fall 2019 release for the as-yet-untitled album.
But in the meantime, the nine-piece released a stopgap EP, “Table Scraps,” in February. The set, recorded with the band’s eight-piece lineup (it has since expanded to a nine-piece), features three studio songs and five tracks recorded at the group’s 2017 New Year’s Eve show at the Old Stone Church. Despite the different recording situations, the songs flow together well. (It helps that they all come from the same era of the band, with lead-off track “Scones” actually getting a music video in 2016).
“Scones” was recorded at SoundSmith Studios in Bend, while the other two studio tracks — the dirge-like “Corner of Shame” and album closer “Cottonwoods” — were tracked at the band’s home studio. The live songs are the real draw, though, showcasing a confident group at the height of its powers, starting with the individual solo spotlights in “Leroy.” “Mix Tape,” which appropriates a “Sweet Home Alabama”-esque chord progression for its tale of childhood musical discovery, is a highlight, as is “What Keeps You Up at Night,” which finds Cranor swapping out his bass for a sousaphone, further highlighting the band’s second-line influences.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin