The Michelin Embers are just about to release their debut album, a ten-song collection entitled Talapachie. The title is a reference to one of those fabled lands, a destination for the ne’er do wells and dreamers, a paradisiacal hospice for those life has chased and battered, a haven for the weary and the worn-out. It’s a place beyond the power of words to describe. Similarly the Michelin Embers are a band whose sound defies description. Their sound combines elements of traditional country with old style rock and roll. They’re a string band with no drums, but not a bluegrass outfit.
Slide player Hobie Givens coined the term “Western Skiffle” to portray the group’s style, and it’s probably as accurate as any other. The band is a four-piece string quartet. Along with Given’s steel, Ken Swagger plucks and strums a ukulele, Johnny Meehan (AKA Johnny Shanker) plays a traditional six-string guitar, and Steve Bragg pulls double duty, creating the bass lines while also lending the songs a distinctive, rhythmic thump on a homemade washtub bass affectionately referred to as the “gut-bucket.” Meehan also handles the bulk of the vocals on the album.
From this simple collection of instruments, the band manages to craft a set of songs that transport the listener through a range of different emotions. There are up-tempo rockers, slow country weepers, and pensive blues. The album sounds great; on each song the presence of the individual instruments varies to match the mood—both a testimony to the quality of the players and the sensitivity of the engineer. The band recorded with Dale Price at Electric Canyon Studio.
These days there are a lot of different ways to go about paying for a recording. True to form, the Michelin Embers have taken a traditional route. They paid for the project up front, with the money the band has earned gigging all over the greater North State. The band assumed all the risks, and has delivered a wonderful finished product. In true DIY form, the guys in the band screen printed the album artwork and hand-glued the sleeves.
This Saturday night, take yourself on a trip to the fabled land of Talapachie by heading over to the Maltese Taproom to hear the band’s live renditions of the songs. If you like what you hear, I’m sure they’ll be willing to sell you a copy or three.
The Michelin Embers album release show is this upcoming Saturday, April 20th at the Maltese Taproom. The 21+ event starts at 8PM, costs $3, and features support from local acts, Rancho Mars and Bunnymilk.