In the 70’s, artists like Joe Cocker and the Grateful Dead made a living (or a killing, frankly) out of fueling a party with a big band, booze, questionable substances and endless jams. Cocker scarcely needed original material to stoke that fire, relying on his exceptional voice and funky swagger of his band. The Dead did it by embedding relatable, folk-influenced storytelling in their shred-centric shows.
Today, on Butte La Rose, Colorado’s mountain-bred quintet Tenth Mountain Division find space between these extremes. They stamp a crisp modernity on top, incorporating styles as far reaching as the Rockies themselves.
The jammy storytelling on “Hot Sweaty South” portrays a crazy, over-drinking, life on tour. “Sad Summer” gives us a polished Beach Boys vibe with electrotheramin, and a gentle synth / mandolin combo on “Highland Morning” frames a smoky male / female vocal duet. The instrumental “Spring Chicken” is lush pop featuring Campbell Thomas’ piano, crafting something akin to Explosions In The Sky. “Get Out Of My Head” does the opposite, with an a capella blues vocal climaxing into classic blues.
“Got Too Excited” is a highlight, bringing a mature swing with horns and bassist Andrew Cooney’s relatable vocal rasp. Here, the band sounds like Saint Paul & The Broken Bones. “Drown You With The Bottle” continues in that vein, with Cooney’s voice and noodly bass at the lead, also showcasing drummer Tyler Gwynnt.
“Burning Heart” mimics Fleet Foxes with melodramatic lyrics, and “Big Blue Sky” closes out the record with frank, albeit morbid, musings about a tour bus which nearly crashed.
These leaps in style may shock some listeners, as the lead vocalist usually defines any given band, but Tenth Mountain Division don’t fit such a mold. Writing and vocal duties are split between at least three members with distinct musical identities. But the band’s got chops, and though Butte La Rose might feel unpredictable, it’s surely a recipe for an interesting live show.