Benjamin Wuamett sings with the nasally scratch one might associate with a rusty Victrola. It's a fitting accoutrement for Ezra Bell, a band that seems to go instrument shopping at rummage sales. But while the music Wuamett and co. make together is built on traditional folk elements such as banjo, cello and mandolin, the band has a punchy, parlor-born gusto about it, as the bright and boisterous We Came By Canoe EP proudly declares.
Ezra Bell certainly draws from indie-Americana stalwarts like Run On Sentence and the Cave Singers, but its saloon-style piano, triumphantly jazzy brass and shuffling percussion push the Portland septet away from the backwoods and straight into a Western watering hole. We Came By Canoe is a walloping batch of big-band folk that moves and shakes with might and dexterity. âJapper Dudasâ bounces from jumpy barnyard ditty to heaving alt-rock anthem. âDear Old Dad (Again)â begins with a dusty piano before bursting into a brazen, countrified waltz. Even âRope Swing,â the most restrained track on the EP, has a fullness about it, walking quietly but leaving big tracks. Filing We Came By Canoe under âFolk Revivalâ seems unfair, as Ezra Bell flirts with a broader palette of country, jazz, rock ânâ roll and swing, and does so admirably, with an outlawâs shamelessness.
SEE IT: Ezra Bell plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Fanno Creek and Bevelers, on Wednesday, June 24. 9 pm. $5. 21+.