Bow Thayer
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Bow Thayer


Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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"Musician gets a little help from Helm on new disc"

Friday, January 19, 2007
Musician gets little help from Helm on new disc

By John W. Barry

Bow Thayer’s first name can conjure up images of those pretty, colorful things that adorn Christmas and birthday presents.

But there is nothing pretty about his music. His songs are grit and grime, simple strumming and singing, a tromp through the spring mud rather than a sleigh ride through the snow. Listen to Thayer’s songs and you can feel the wind bite your face and the rain in your bones.

His singing voice sounds a little like Bob Dylan’s. But Thayer doesn’t sound like he’s trying to sound like Bob Dylan. He plays the harmonica like Neil Young, raw and unrefined, taking the listener on a journey through his windpipes and the dirty, dusty roads of backwoods America with each exhale.

Thayer’s latest album, “Spend It All,” was released Tuesday and has everything you need for a front porch jam session or battle of the bands by bonfire — acoustic guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel and just to make sure you’re paying attention — baritone clarinet.

“Spend It All” also boasts the drumming of Levon Helm, the longtime Woodstock resident and legendary stick and skins man for The Band. Helm has enjoyed a major resurgence thanks to his “Rambles,” which are semi-regular Saturday night concerts at his recording studio, an event that on Saturday will feature Thayer and his band kicking the evening off.

The Alexis P. Suter Band will play second, followed by the Levon Helm Band featuring guitarist Jimmy Vivino from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. This week’s Ramble is sold out.

On “Spend It All,” Helm lends Thayer’s original compositions that quick, spry, simple and soulful drumming that anchored some of modern music’s most timeless songs, “Up On Cripple Creek” and “Ophelia” by The Band among them.

Thayer has always been a huge fan of The Band and the mystique that he said surrounds their legacy and their music.

“They’re unlike anything that ever happened in rock ’n’ roll,” said Thayer, who grew up near Boston and now lives on the White River in Vermont. “They were in a class of their own.”

Rock superstars as client

Helm isn’t the only musical heavy-hitter to have taken notice of Thayer. Thayer’s publicist is Elizabeth Freund, who also represents Ringo Starr and The Beatles, and with a partner has opened Beautiful Day Media & Management in Brooklyn.

Listen to Thayer and it probably won’t come as a surprise that he’s receiving a lot of attention. He steers clear of the cliches. He also stays focused on his particular sound, but can also evoke the sound of a band like Wilco.

Somehow, he seems to have applied his skills as a carpenter and artist — now he’s building songs and painting pictures with lyrics — to his song writing.

“It’s just something that’s in my blood and I would probably go completely insane if I couldn’t do it,’ Thayer said of writing and performing songs. “It’s just in my soul. I’ve got to do it. ... There are times when I’m like, what am I doing this for. I’ve tried to stop.

It just doesn’t work. I get depressed.”

For information, visit or

John W. Barry is the music writer for the Poughkeepsie Journal. Write him c/o Poughkeepsie Journal, P.O. Box 1231, Poughkeepsie, NY 12602, call 845-437-4822, or e-mail - Poughkeepsie Journal

"Bow Thayer featuring Levon Helm"

Bow Thayer featuring Levon Helm
Spend It All
(Crooked Root)
Essential: "The Way That It Swings"

Bow Thayer has a sweet tooth for smooth '70s country-rock and moody folk and a knack for writing warm, familiar tunes. All of the alt-country elements are in place -- percolating pedal steel, sweeping organ, and booming upright bass. And Thayer's secret weapon -- former Band drummer Levon Helm -- is a subtle but driving presence on nine of 10 tracks. It's nearly impossible not to feel good when the Twinemen's Dana Colley kicks off "The Way That It Swings" with his meandering, multitoned sax. "Stoned Kid" is a head-bobbing sing-along, and "Got My Attention" and "10,000 Beer Cans" are reminiscent of Joe Henry's early efforts, albeit without quite matching Henry's more poetic lyrics. [Nick A. Zaino III]

- Boston Globe

"Bow Thayer- Ace of Clubs"

Bow Thayer is proud to have Levon Helm drumming on his new record, "Spend it All" (Crooked Root), and rightly so--the Band's stickman can still kick out a nice, swampy groove. Helm won't be joining Thayer on the road, but the Vermont songwriter's rootsy country-rock is pretty nifty on its own. - Time Out New York

"Vermont Musician Gets a Boost"

Vermont musician gets a boost

By Mike Schaefer

In a lot of ways, Bow Thayer is the prototypical Vermont musician. He owns a strong singer-songwriter’s voice, an outback bluegrass and traditional country music love, and some perfect punk-rock sensibilities.

His musicianship, lyrics and voice aren’t too shabby either.

So it comes as no big surprise that on his latest, “Spend It All” (out Jan. 16 on Crooked Root Records), Thayer appears to make songwriting — good songwriting — an easy feat to accomplish.

Take, for example, Thayer’s musical partner on “Spend it All” and then you understand what you’re really getting involved with before you even hear the first lick of music. Levon Helm, the legendary drummer and member of The Band, is a co-conspirator and mastermind in the direction of the sound. Even if he simply arrived at the studio, laid down his maestro behind the kit and bolted for the next big thing before Thayer could thank him (there are some rumors circulati

Bow Thayer gets some help from a legend, Levon Helm, on his new release, “Spend It All.” ng that Helm arrived during a storm similar to our New Year’s frenetic ice storm and was locked in the studio for some time by nature), his mere presence had an obvious effect on Thayer.

The record picks up where Thayer left off on last year’s releases, “Maintenance for Mood Swings” and “The Driftwood Periodicals,” both on Crooked Root Records. Thayer’s in-depth stories of rural Vermont life and his moody introspective lyrics of heartbreak, loss and redemption typify his modus operandi.

But where as Thayer’s previous band, the punky and brackish ramblers The Benders, were a whirling dervish of bluegrass players who seemed to be playing out live for a few handfuls of drink tickets and an excuse to use them, his solo efforts are a more concentrated version of his love for classic country music.

The operative word is classic. Not the rerun twang of wannabe country music heard on the radio today, but the beautifully dark sounds of Johnny Cash, Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe.

On the lead track of “Spend It All,” “You Got My Attention,” Thayer lays it all on the line right up front. Without letting the listener even have to earn the goods, he sings, “I never meant it, even though I should have said it, you really, really meant a lot.”

Or the blues-inspired tell-all of “That’s the Way That It Swings,” where Thayer comes to terms with his own faults. He writes, “You know I was blindsided by that wrecking ball/Well I’ll be all right/I can live with that night/I’ll just buy a one-way ticket on that get-over-it flight.”

And while Helm adds a bit of flair to a stellar songwriting sensibility, it’s the overall cast of supporting musicians that gives Thayer’s latest release the intense musical bend that makes it a critical release.

Nolan McKelvey appears on upright bass, Chris Coughlin on organ, Dave Rizzuti on pedal steel and electric guitar, Pete Weiss on Moog, Dana Colley on baritone sax, Damon Libert on fiddle and Thayer filling in everywhere else.

Did I mention Levon Helms on drums?

Thayer and Co. strike gold on “Spend It All.” Every one of the album’s 11 tracks is a superbly written and played track of cathartic emotion.

Thayer is a masterful storyteller who is lucky enough to have music (and a few musician friends to help him) in bringing the stories to life. “Spend It All” won’t be a chart-buster anytime soon, but it could be the most quintessential testimonial every laid to wax.

- The Stowe Reporter

"It's A Cracker- 100% Guaranteed!!"

Bow Thayer's low-key, literate country-rock works against him if all the listener wants is atmosphere. The attentive listener will be rewarded with a very promising songwriter and musician. On Spend It All, Thayer uses wit and candor to tell tales of his life in Vermont. Musically, he draws on the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia's bluegrass leanings. This is a gentle elegance to his music. Levon Helm gets "with" billing on this release. While Helm expertly handles the heart of the songs, his getting mention on the cover might overshadow Thayer who is worthy of solo billing on this excellent release. -- Jeff Weiss, Miles of Music (Crooked Root)
- Miles of Music

"Bow Thayer featuring Levon Helm - Spend It All review"

Bow Thayer featuring Levon Helm – Spend It All Review
Posted by Mitch Michaels on 02.01.2007

Alt country by way of Vermont takes the folk world by storm…

My Story
I’m a firm believer that a good song is one that can still sound good when sung with just a singer and an acoustic guitar. Though Bow Thayer seems to be the eclectic type, with musical projects ranging from alt country to punk, the artist seems to be of that same mindset. Does his most recent collaboration with The Band’s Levon Helm measure up?

His Story
Bow Thayer has been simmering in the underground for nearly twenty years now, playing with acclaimed bands like Jethro and Elbow, but it was only a few years ago, while playing banjo for a band called The Benders, that Thayer began to really break out. Alt country juggernaut “No Depression” magazine picked up on The Benders in 2002 and Thayer himself became the face of the burgeoning roots rock revival in the Northeastern US.

Bow split with The Benders following their 2003 release, Mountain Music, and moved on to work on his first solo offerings. The following year saw Thayer release two albums, Maintenance For Moodswings and The Driftwood Periodicals, Vol. 1 on Vermont-based Crooked Root records. Both discs were well-received critically and bright things were predicted for the future of Bow Thayer.

Around the time he recorded his first solo albums, Thayer also spent some sessions with former Band drummer Levon Helm. These tracks were put together for release recently, as well. Thayer is currently doing shows in New York City and the surrounding area in support of the new album.

The Album
On January 16, 2006, Crooked Root released Spend It All, the third solo album by ex-Benders frontman Bow Thayer featuring drummer Levon Helm, formerly of The Band. The album is available through, as well as other outlets.

The Band: 8.0
Bow Thayer: vocals, guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, banjo, resonator ukulele
Levon Helm: drums

It’s appropriate that this album is tied to The Band, because it’s the sort of rolling, soulful folk-rock that has been sorely missing from the radio since that act took their Last Waltz. Bow Thayer is an inspired singer, delivering his songs with a matter-of-fact accent and a rural easiness. The background harmonies also recall folkies like The Band and early Eagles, so much so that you’ll be singing along once you know the words.

Helm adds a levity to the proceedings that is palpable. His drums keep things steady-rolling at all times and you just have to fantasize about what other input he had hear. Not to say that this is a Band rip-off. Far from it. For one thing, the songs aren’t near as pop-shiny as some of The Band’s later efforts. Thayer keeps things entrenched in the front porch atmosphere, with upright bass, harmonica and mandolins so down-home wonderful, you’ll swear you hear the rocking chair gently creaking along to the beat. Only the added organ and other keys give sign that this was, in fact, recorded in a studio.

In the end, this CD comes across as friendly and warm. Benders fans may be hoping to hear Thayer on banjo a bit more (he only busts out the instrument on two tracks here), but that’s a minor qualm. The backing musicians here are more than capable of keeping things interesting. This is a perfect album for driving or just a late weeknight. Rural route not included.

The Songs: 7.5
1. Got My Attention
2. Thinner
3. Wingless Angels
4. The Way That It Swings
5. Snake Bite
6. Stoned Kid
7. 10,000 Beer Cans
8. Nor Easter Snow
9. Road To Oblivion
10. Jewel

As a songwriter, Bow Thayer has really blown me away. His songs invoke a wistful nostalgia for country life without bowing to the jokiness of other “southern” fare. And, make no mistake about it: despite Thayer’s status as a Vermont-er and his references to Calgary snow and nor’easters, this album is a southern man’s delight.

Standouts on this album include the fun, medium paced opener, “Got My Attention”, which has a great hook: “You got my attention/By breakin’ my heart”, and the backwoods creeper “Wingless Angels”. The closer, “Jewel”, is a gorgeous, dreamy number that features Thayer on ukulele. It will break your heart.

In the end, Thayer proves himself as very adept at creating true emotion in his music, a trait that will surely shine on several albums to come.

The 411: Spend It All is Bow Thayer’s third solo album and has the added boost of featuring a famous guest spot by Levon Helm. Helm surely adds a weightiness to the procedures, but Band fans that find their way to this disc may just walk out with a new favorite artist. Thayer is a hell of a songwriter, invoking country-style emotions and southern gothic imagery by way of the northern states. There’s a low-key atmosphere on this album that works well to showcase Thayer’s lyrics and also to add to the overall back-porch feel. If you have any interest in modern folk music (or even - Mitch Michaels- 411 Mania


2007 - Bow Thayer - "Spend it All" - Featuring Levon Helm

2006 - Bow Thayer - "Maintenance for Mood Swings" - Crooked Root Records

2004 - Bow Thayer - "The Driftwood Periodicals, Volume 1" - Crooked Root Records

2003 - The Benders - "Mountain Radio" - Pig Pile Records

2002 - Bow Thayer and the Euphorians - "Somewhereville" - Self-released

2002 - The Benders - "The Benders 2" - Pig Pile Records

2001 - The Benders - "The Benders" - Pig Pile Records



Bow Thayer is a man of country-side distinction. A prolific artist who has four CDs out and not one bad review. Cited as “one of the bright new lights on the Americana music scene,” Thayer is a workin’ man’s poet with a knack for musically defining what it is that brings us all to the front of the stage with our toes tapping. His influence draws largely on the past; a reminiscence of Bob Dylan, John Prine, The Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie and classic country of the forties and fifties all waft in and out of his finger-picking and vocals. But Thayer’s “newgrass” draws all these influences to the present and forward, putting him neck and neck with the likes of early Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Yonder Mountain String Band. At the base of his gracefully crafted studio tracks there is always a very strong song; every review mentions his strength as a writer. The lyrics flow in honest and comforting melody lines while the instrumentation augments his talent for embracing the listener. Seeing him play, you wonder which is more prominent: “that constant tap of your toe or the grin on your face.”