It's not quite folk music, though it's folks that are playing it. It's not quite power pop, though it's got power and people like it. Let's call it power folk. It's what happened to Tin Cat when they shrank from a five-piece rock band to a drum-free trio. It could happen to anyone.
So they're mellower than most rock bands, but funkier than most folk acts. They're playing Beatles songs, but with a mandolin groove on top. They're inspired by Bill Withers and Bill Monroe, Steve Earle and Steely Dan. They're playing country songs with electric pianos, Irish airs with electric guitars.
Watch the bass: At a typical performance you might see it in Tom Gewecke's hands while Erik Ostrom sings "Over Ilsa," about an unrequited love for a fictional character. Later it goes to Dave Allender while Erik picks up the mandolin for Tom's rueful, truthful "Out of the Hat." Maybe Erik plays the bass on Dave's soulful interplanetary waltz, "Mars." If you're lucky, the bass takes a break for a while as the band plays Stevie Wonder's funky classic "Boogie On Reggae Woman" on guitar, accordion, and ukelele. Things move around a lot.
All the while, it's held together by the band's love of strong melodies and rhythmic grooves, by a loose attitude toward tight arrangements, and by the singing. All three members sing their own material and sing along with each other's. It's how the band started out, in a way, at an open mike, with Erik helplessly compelled to sing along in the audience every time Dave and Tom played their song "Travis". Now he sings along on stage.
Mixing acoustic and electric, modern and traditional, rock and folk (and soul, and reggae, and blues, and country, and whatever other shiny object catches their collective eye), Tin Cat is making its own sound. Let's call it power folk. We've got to call it something.
On "The Long Way," Tin Cat is joined by former bandmates Meredith Edgar (guitar and vocals) and Evan Bautista (drums), as well as the finger snaps and sax attacks of producer/pal Cameron De Palma.
Erik Ostrom - Bass, Guitar, mandolin, keyboard, voice, Accordion
Tom Gewecke - Banjo, Bass, Guitar, voice, ukulele
Dave Allender - Bass, Guitar, voice
"Tom's Mom's" (4-song EP)
"The Long Way" (2008)
"pleasing harmonies, fine tunes"
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San Jose acoustic indie-pop-folk trio Tin Cat's Web page showcases three impressive demos. Eric Ostr...San Jose acoustic indie-pop-folk trio Tin Cat's Web page showcases three impressive demos. Eric Ostrom, Tom Gewecke and Dave Allender create pleasing harmonies to complement the fine tunes. There's a bit of a Barenaked Ladies vibe.
"darn right joyful"
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[Greg was writing about an earlier, larger incarnation of the band, but we asked him recently, and h...[Greg was writing about an earlier, larger incarnation of the band, but we asked him recently, and he still likes us.]
... Erik Ostrom (piano, mandolin, accordion, vocals, guitar and bass) was over on the acoustic piano... This night he was overflowing with music, and dare I say it, darn right joyful about playing with the other four people in this band.
Tom Gewecke (bass, vocals, guitar and lap steel) and Evan Bautista (drums) were a rhythm section that I always like to see, creating a subtle but definite foundation to lay a song on. I always notice when a drummer is playing with his eyes closed, and actually singing the lyrics to an original song the band is playing, which was the case this night. It’s nice to see someone into the song, rather than just playing it. While watching Tom playing bass, I was thinking he's playing the kind of thing I would play, laying down a groove but adding color and texture by accompanying the other instruments rather than merely supporting them.
We listened to two or three original songs that I didn’t know, but I liked them all. Then Erik picked up his mandolin and they launched into Losing Streak, which is one of my favorite songs of his. I've heard it on his CD and I've heard it on the Tin Cat MySpace, and as with everything else, it really took on new life when played live.
Lead vocals are mostly shared by Meredith Edgar (guitar and vocals) and Erik. Meredith’s voice is refreshingly innocent but in your face at the same time. Erik is singing better than I've ever heard him, and on this song, Meredith’s harmonies were the perfect accompaniment to his soft spoken anguish. "And now I'm standing at the door... no one lives here any more... after today... now that I'm leaving Daisy's shadow behind..."
We listened for a few more tunes then they brought out an inspired interpretation of Tears for Fears’ Head over Heels. If someone would have said "hey, there's a band in here playing a Tears for Fears cover" I would have snorted and walked the other direction. But they treated it like it was their own song, with everyone bringing something different to the table. Everything including Dave Allender's (guitar, vocals, bass, percussion) tasty guitar licks made it a pleasure to listen to. Tin Cat made me forget who the song was originally by.
This is the first time I've seen Tin Cat live, and it was a great first impression as far as I'm concerned. I can't tell you if it’s always like that but I'd definitely go again. Even if they were half as good as they were when I saw them, the looks between the players, the smiles that were exchanged and the obvious joy at making music together is what will bring me back again. And you can’t ask for more than that from a band. That's all it’s about, anyway.
We're happy playing anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. An hour or so is great.
We play mostly original songs but we also know a lot of songs by other people. (We try to make those sound original, too.) Some of our favorites:
It's All Over Now (Womack/Womack, Rolling Stones)
Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder)
Black Jack Davey (traditional, Taj Mahal)
This Must Be The Place (Talking Heads)
Song titles don't tell you much, but here are some of ours:
Hangin' with Miss Eerie
She Stole My Bike
Mostly they're about people we know, or made up.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.