Boston trio The Ballroom Thieves celebrate the release of their debut full-length album, “A Wolf in the Doorway,” with a show at Empire in Portland on Friday night. The band includes guitarist/vocalist Martin Earley, percussionist/vocalist Devin Mauch and cellist/vocalist Calin Peters.
Earley and Mauch started playing together in 2010 while both were college students outside of Boston. A year later, Rachel Gawell and her cello were enlisted and the band was officially born – and played 150 shows in its first two years. Along the way The Ballroom Thieves released two EPs, “The Devil & The Deep” in 2012 and a self-titled one a year later.
In 2013 Gawell left the band and was replaced by Peters. Fast forward to today and the release this week of “A Wolf in the Doorway.” The previous EPs were certainly pleasing to the ears, but the band has truly come into its own, with a dozen original songs abounding with a harmony-laced folk-rock sound. They’ve also got it going on lyrically with well thought-out wordsmithing and soulful moments of stark honesty.
The album isn’t afraid to show its teeth at times, as evidenced by “Oars to the Sea,” Its flashing electric guitar and howling vocals set the song on fire before slipping back into a calm place where the cello can be heard.
Peters sings lead on “Bury Me Smiling,” which, despite addressing death, is hymn-like and gorgeous. “Bury me smiling, next to my darling. Bury me deep down, bury me low.”
Without giving your ears and heart a moment to catch a breath, the next track is “The Loneliness Waltz,” and if you’re not touched by this gentle, stirring tune, you might want to make sure you have a pulse. So goes the song: “Toothless and tired my soul finds the door/To breathe and to be, nothing less, nothing more/Safe from disaster and spared by your love/Settle down now, I think that’s enough.” The cello alone is enough to make this song as close to musical perfection as a song can get.
What’s more, The Ballroom Thieves just released a sensational live video of the song “Lantern” that was recorded a few months back at The Strand Theatre in Rockland. The Thieves were backed by none other than The Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, led by Kevin Oates. Huge props to Sam Caswell at the Herman Mantis video team for their work on it.
Despite it only being April, an early prediction puts this on a short list of favorite albums of 2015. So snatch up some tickets and get yourself to Empire to see and hear for yourself why The Ballroom Thieves set themselves above a crowded field.
Head to ballroomthieves.com to hear some of the new tracks.
The Ballroom Thieves CD release show with Tall Heights. 9:30 p.m. Friday. Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland, $10, 21-plus. portlandempire.com
Jazz fan? Well then blue is the new black. Blue the nightclub, that is, which thanks to recent renovations has doubled in size. Most Saturday nights are reserved for the “Jazz at the Blue” series, which kicks off with a happy hour at 4 p.m., followed by several acts each week starting at 6 p.m. and lasting long into the night. Side note, in case you’re wondering: The cocktails and food at Blue have always been terrific so you can really park yourself there for the night and have your needs, from hunger pain to an itch for live jazz, taken care of.
This Saturday the lineup is Sue ‘n’ Blue, the Taylor O’Donnell Quartet and Gideon Forbes. Sue ‘n’ Blue is the duo of vocalist Sue Sheriff and pianist Pete Blue. Colorado native and current Mainer Taylor O’Donnell is a contemporary vocalist who is all about jazz, folk and R&B standards and originals. Among her many claims to fame, O’Donnell appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show and has performed at Carnegie Hall and The Lincoln Center. Last, you’ll hear from horn player Gideon Forbes and likely a few of his jazzy accompanists.
Jazz at the Blue. 6 p.m. Saturday. Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland, $10 suggested donation. portcityblue.com