For several months now I’ve been walking to work, which is a journey that takes me over the Casco Bay Bridge and always features a fantastic soundtrack on my newish headphones that not only keep my ears warm but also fill my heart and soul with a sound that can’t be replicated by the earbuds that come with most phones.
For the past couple of weeks, my ears have been treated to a whole lot of “Deadeye,” the new album from The Ballroom Thieves, and I can’t wait to hear many of these songs performed live on Thursday night in Portland. The Ballroom Thieves is the Boston trio of Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals) and Calin Peters (cello, vocals), and “Deadeye” is their second full-length album (in addition to two EPs).
Do you ever look up a word in an online dictionary and then click on the audio pronunciation just for fun? Well, if I were in charge, when you click on the word “passionate,” you’d hear the sound of The Ballroom Thieves. It would be a rotation of songs, starting with the “Deadeye” opening track “Peregrine.” Some ambient sounds, including birds, infuse the beginning of the song, which is soon filled with the bold vocals of Earley and equally bold harmonies from Mauch and Peters.
“You know I don’t mean to upset you/My windy words are meager/On an island set to perish or be rescued I’m not espoused to either.” Halfway through, Peters’ cello storms into the song in glorious fashion, and Mauch’s percussion punctuates throughout. The song rises and falls, takes sharp turns and reaches almost spiritual heights, then lands like a feather on a park bench.
“For Mercy” is a gentler tune, again with spine-tingling harmonies like a fire being misted with gasoline. Which brings “Deadeye” to the emotionally stirring “Canary” with Peters on lead vocals. “Hear me through this dying day and hold the words that were not meant for you.”
“Deadeye” has many shining stars throughout its 13 tracks, and one at the center of its galaxy is “Anybody Else.” Earley’s on lead, but the three voices together make this song tremendous. This one is an all occasions powerhouse of a tune suitable for crying in your whiskey, doing everything you can to stitch your heart back up, or declaring your love for someone from atop the nearest mountain. “When she’s not listening and I am missing her/I never wanted anybody else/And whenever she leaves me behind/Think I’m a fool not to be by her side/I never wanted anybody else.” This is a hell of a song and I sure hope they play it on the Portland show. Sames goes for “Trouble,” another one with Peters on lead vocals. “I’m terrified of my heart/Its hunger for whatever it may want/The way it stops and starts.” You’ll be stomping along with this one while also appreciating Earley’s electric guitar.
Take a listen to “Anybody Else”
But wait, now I have to talk about the tender “Bees.” “I think she fears I’ll be a servant to my history/Or worse a slave to someone else’s misplaced doubts/So I try too hard to kill what’s out to kill me/’Til I’m blind and hiding in the lion’s mouth.”
I also want to rave about “Blood Run Red” and “Storms” and, well, pretty much every track on “Deadeye” because it really is that good.
The Ballroom Thieves are makers of exquisite, powerful and glorious folk rock that ventures into Americana, country, maybe a little blues and sometimes an orchestral landscape of music that you never want to end. In fact, forget about trying to assign any specific genre to this trio’s sound. Instead, spend your energy and time on buying a ticket, coming to the show, loving every second of it and then picking up a copy of “Deadeye” on your way out.
And, by the way, get there on time because The Suitcase Junket (Matt Lorenz) is opening the show. He’s a one-man band like you’ve never seen or heard, and this guy plays not only a mean slide guitar but an array instruments fashioned out of junkyard spare parts for his “swamp-yankee” music. For real.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 in advance, $20 day of show, $30 preferred seating
TICKETS & INFO: portcitymusichall.com