Odd Fellows Rest
The Last Hombres
Label: Louisiana Red Hot Records
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Review Date: August 04, 2014
The Last Hombres return after a decade out of the spotlight and what a return it is. Principal songwriters and original members Paul Schmitz (guitar, vocals), Michael Meehan (bass, vocals), and Russ Seeger (guitars, vocals), have brought on Chris James (Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, pedal steel, vocals ) and Tom Ryan (drums) to round out the line-up. Odd Fellows Rest is released via new partner Louisiana Red Hot Records, and the next chapter begins.
The band is on a musical journey with no set destination. They are seekers following the collective muse of their songs, and united by their individual perspectives. More than just a collection of players, they are a real band, with a sum that eclipses the parts. The repertoire is an amalgamation of dreams, poetry, and stories that together represent what The Last Hombres define as "the process." Trust the process, and the collaboration morphs from raw ingredients to powerful concoctions that are uniquely theirs, sharing these different views and styles with a passion for expressing hard life observations.
They easily articulate the qualities that make their collaborations so compelling. They offer collectively visible analogies that include, "The tightness of the Stax house band; the looseness of a second line; a chapter of a Flannery O'Connor novel; the pull of a Saturday night; the gravity of church on Sunday morning." The songs are deeply literate and driving roots rock that express aspects of the American experience from a multitude of angles - Americana with muscle. It is as if they are on a road trip from Broadway to Bourbon Street, becoming more enlightened with every mile passed in their collective journey.
This is chapter two for the band, and the story begins close to a decade from where the last passage was written. In the beginning, luminaries that include Buddy Cage, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm were intertwined within the band's birth. Helm became their drummer for the Koch release Redemption, and took the ride for a while, and in turn affording the band a legacy with a formidable foundation on which to stand. At the time, All Music Guide's Stewart Mason wrote, "...Helm has good taste: Unlike so many of the minor-league roots-rock bands dotting the bars of America, The Last Hombres have strong songwriters in singer Paul Schmitz and bassist Michael Meehan, and fiery (but never too flashy) lead guitarist Russ Seeger."
After a period of time, Levon opted to stay close to home, developing a series of celebrated barn parties (aka the Midnight Ramble). They all individually continued to lead prolific careers, but the Hombres drifted towards varied projects. As the years went by, they all became friends and musical collaborators with Chris James, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist active in the New York area. But it would take another force of nature to get all these Hombres back in a room making music together -- drummer Tom Ryan. Writer, DJ, and general raconteur, Ryan is an active character. While organizing a benefit for a fellow musician under his New York Roots Music Association umbrella, he asked The Last Hombres to reunite for a short set. After some quick rehearsals, the band found themselves on stage together for the first time in eight or so years, and therein begins the next chapter that inevitably delivered Odd Fellows Rest.
Ryan's newly built home, with its New Orleans inspired architecture, became the workshop / gathering place / rehearsal studio. Dubbed “The Bunker,” it’s authentic southern hospitality and cuisine served up by NOLA native Heidy Ryan was the perfect place to work out what became a huge backlog of powerful material from these three writers – Russ Seeger, Paul Schmitz and Michael Meehan.
They began where they left off, penning literate roots rock, surrealistic alternative country, and dusk colored gypsy outlaw ballads that together form a solid collection of great material. And so they began the process...torch welding the spare parts into a larger whole. Guitarist and violinist Russ Seeger reveals, "We decided to texture the songs a little differently this time, with the New Orleans horns becoming more integrated, along with a more powerful drum and bass experience."
Not wanting to lose the vibe of “the bunker,” the band reconvened at the highly regarded One East Studios in New York City, where they could watch each other's hands, eyeball to eyeball, while the machines ran with Producer Yohei Goto at the helm. The 13-song album was then put in the trusted hands of Scott Hull, veteran Mastering Engineer at MasterDisk, resulting in the aptly named Odd Fellows Rest. Schmitz offers, "What I find odd about the album are the songs written separately over a different period of time by three different writers working in different places, and somehow the songs all speak to each other and answer each other. I think that is collective vision. That's the way this seems to work."
As they rise from the ashes, The Last Hombres offer fatalistic Americana that is overflowing with wisdom and insight, following a new muse as their journey continues. Everybody pays a price for the choices they make - or don't make. With both gravitas and humor, as the road twists and turns towards an uncertain future, they continue on their path, knowing full well that the beauty lies not in the destination but in the journey. Americana fans will definitely want this album as part of their collection as will fans of the late Levon Helm.