Sisters native Travis Ehrenstrom has spent the five years since the release of his 2013 album “Remain a Mystery” building his eponymous band and logging plenty of playing hours around town and beyond. The folk-rock songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, also known for his work with locals Lande, Shady GroOove, Riderbymyside and Redbird, as well as a stint with nationally touring group Noah Gundersen & The Courage in the late 2000s, will release his first full-band album, “Something on the Surface,” at Bend Brewing Company on Friday.
The band’s live shows, rather than “Remain a Mystery,” provide a better reference point for this recording. When compared with its predecessor, “Something on the Surface” is at once more muscular (thanks to some deft playing from busy local musicians Patrick Pearsall on bass and Kyle Pickard on drums) and more sonically open, with each of the six members finding plenty of space to do his thing.
Ehrenstrom’s songwriting is the through line, and he’s cooked up some winners. The 10 tracks explore nearly every corner of the roots-rock realm, from the Tom Petty-esque opener “Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way” to the jangly, upbeat “Heavy Light” to the riff-y stomper “I Watched the World End.” Elsewhere, “Sara” rides a soulful organ riff into a dark ’60s pop groove, while the stuttering piano chords of “Are You Chicago?” recall Ben Folds at his best.
But it’s the melodies that stand out the most. Ehrenstrom has an immensely likable and relatable voice, which he uses to great effect on the title track’s climbing chorus hook. That song would be the best track here if not for late-album sleeper “Holding on to Nothing,” a heart-wrenching look at a relationship gone stagnant (complete with violin and cello from Ehrenstrom) that should strike a chord with anyone who’s ever loved anyone.
Travis Ehrenstrom Band CD release party: 6 p.m. Friday; free; Bend Brewing Company, 1019 NW Brooks St., Bend; bendbrewingco.com or 541-383-1599.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin