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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Band Rock Americana


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Best Knoxville Band Ever #9"

by Tim Lee

When the first Ramones album came out in the mid-1970s, one reviewer likened it to a “licorice pop-tart,” a sweet pastry, albeit one with a bitter edge. Although Tenderhooks sound nothing like Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy, that oddball analogy is an apt description of the Knoxville foursome.

Formed by childhood friends Jake Winstrom and Ben Oyler (and featuring the crack rhythm tag team of Emily Robinson and Matt Honkonen), the ’hooks’ music is highlighted by the sugary vocal harmonies of Winstrom and Robinson, which soar atop a bed of folky rock ’n’ roll, accented by Oyler’s Terry Hill-schooled fretwork and Honkonen’s muscular-yet-musical skin-pounding.

Trying to pigeonhole Tenderhooks is a pointless endeavor. Unlike most of their twentysomething contemporaries, Winstrom, Oyler, Robinson and Honkonen aren’t making youthful alternative music of the moment (or painful retreads of music that was made before they were born), but rather classic, timeless songs that belie their tender ages. Like the best bands, they are a product of their influences (which range from Pere Ubu to Emmylou Harris), yet sound like none of them. Their third and latest release, New Ways to Butcher English, is an artistic triumph, and a major step forward for the band, who tracked the songs live in a couple of New York studios. Their playing is sharp, and the songs’ vignettes feature a believable cast of characters, including the frustrated artist/fast food servant of “Customer Service” or the corrupt small-town sheriff of “Local Boys Done Good Don’t Go to Jail.” This time around, Winstrom’s winsome vocals are raspier, Oyler’s improvisations are more fluid, Robinson’s bass playing is as solid and melodic as ever, and Honkonen, who makes his recorded debut as a ’hook, positively shines.

With a coupla industry hotshots in their corner, Tenderhooks are poised to be the next big band to come from Knoxville. Don’t bet against ’em. - Metro Pulse

"NWTBE review by Trace Bateman"

A fairly short and to-the-point album, a little over half an hour, New Ways To Butcher English doesn't feel rushed, but rather is a fully fleshed out concept devoid of unnecessary tangents and avoiding underdeveloped themes. The effect is a confident musical statement, staying sonically consistent while taking advantage of the chosen field. No song sounds exactly like another and yet each carries the trademark of this album's work, relying on uniformity of character rather than cookie cutter arrangements.
The high quality of the recording allows the performances to articulate the earthy tone of each track and the record as a whole. The songs are driven by interlocking rhythms, each part taking a role. The kick drum thumps just enough to give the sense of a room. The bass resonates from wall to wall as the rhythm guitar articulates the beat. The lead guitar then plays a counter role filling in gaps or soaring above them, leaving the vocals at best when blended in harmony to settle in atop these textures. The arrangements are clever — each transition is so well-crafted that the different sections seem organically fused rather than jarring or forced, creating a steady and unstoppable pulse.
The album flows from playful to pensive, in each circumstance dealing with heavy emotions through measured, thoughtful intensity. New Ways to Butcher English offers a sense of understanding of highs and lows as parts of a whole, encouraging patience and trust. From "Customer Service," an anxious look at the everyday job, to "Are You Gonna Wait Forever?" a hopeful yet sad view of relationships, the Tenderhooks appear firm in their approach to the ongoing uncertainty and difficulty of the music business and life in general. In the end, "Roofbeams" shapes the belief that strength and experience come from a continuous effort shared with the company of friends. - Knoxville Voice

"NWTBE review by Timothy Hankins"

So, I guess the cliché is that reviewers pigeonhole artists — slicing and dicing music into genres, taxonomically separating organic parts into the flora and fauna of an aural biosphere. If that's true, and I imagine there is some truth to it after all, bands like the Tenderhooks exist to make a reviewer's job as difficult as possible.

"New Ways to Butcher English" is more than just a genre-bending exploration of various musical styles by a band that can seemingly do it all. The record is actually an emotional journey through a world where feelings can't be expressed one way or the other. There's a mish-mash of expression that winds its way through the tunes and transforms bits and pieces of each track into something that is more than the sum of its parts.

The vocals and arrangements are reminiscent of Blind Melon's slacker blues sound that emerged from the grunge-crusted '90s. Shannon Hoon's sickly sweet vocal style and haunting sense of melody are channeled into this record with an eerie accuracy. There's also a certain wholesome, rootsy quality to these songs that brings to mind hometown rock from the likes of Mellencamp, or even Springsteen.

This album is hard to classify, but, at its heart, it's pure pop. It's intelligent — maybe even sarcastic — and just a little jaded. But the attitude always feels a little tongue-in-cheek. There's a deep breath of optimism that floats through this collection of songs. It's this breath that rescues the record from bitterness; it exchanges bitterness for bittersweet.
And I'm left with just the slightest whisper of melancholy; the faintest hint of hope.

My favorite track on this disc is "Heaven and Hell." Conveniently, this song also proves my point; this song really sums up the character of the entire album.

It opens with raucous, dirty guitars and gritty, growling vocals. The lyrics smell of despair: "There is no umbilical cord to pull you through all the sadness and the pain. I think I see heaven and hell." And the band seems to protest this state of affairs — frenetic rhythms, whiny guitars and a dirty bass line complain loudly between vocal lines. Until the line: "Just close my eyes as I kiss you on the roof."
Then the song opens up, like pulling the curtains on a dark room. As light pours in, everything changes. Guitars trade grit for tinkle; kick drum gives way to high-hat and splash; and the bass lightens its step. Then the keyboard takes up its song, standing in for the vocals. A beautiful, light melody fills the newly brightened space. For a moment, I'm the one kissing on a moonlit rooftop.

That's how this album works. By setting and undercutting a mood over and over again, by refusing to let the listener settle into a genre and get comfortable in a category, this record at first jars you, then entrances you. From gritty to atmospheric and back again, these songs ultimately wrap you up and tell you a story. And, like any good story, this one hangs out on the back porch of your memory and hums you to sleep. - Maryville Daily Times

""Vidalia" reviewed by Stylus"

Rock Snob

calling out to softhearted heavyweights like R.E.M. and country and western's effortlessly obsessive homage to the human voice, Tenderhooks' Vidalia may be one of only a handful of contemporary records that carve instantly recognizable nostalgia into something as solid as the originals. In these pleasurable, highly rhythmic guitar takeaways nothing entirely sophisticated is happening, but the overall effect is that of intricately layered instrumentation playing host to strong, memorable vocals. Not always do the songs hit the mark, but when the band strays from whatever reminiscences appear in the listener's mind, it's not to lesser songs and lesser accomplishments, but to different sounds, different references, all the while strengthened by their lead singer's balladic finesse.

In the case of the title track, the album's third, the cue is decidedly Dandy Warhols, the song's staticky guitars and cheery heft imagining a world not unlike the colorful, dramatic nexus of the Dandies' video set in the documentary Dig. But the opener is a lighter, sunnier Zeppelin throwback, composed less rigidly than some of the album's later tracks, when each beat is laid precisely on the line. That interest in beat is both '50s and Southern in its roots, and it shouldn't be surprising, then, that this Knoxville foursome commands their range of influences with a sound that is quite simply a genuine article.

As the album progresses, the band's sole lady, Emily Robinson, shares the mic with falsetto flirter Jake Winstrom in sweltering ballads like "Quarter of a Century," and one is reminded of Neko Case's gorgeous contributions to the New Pornographers, not to mention her continually interesting solo work. Tenderhooks' careening two-part harmonies bolster some of the less interesting rock-outs like "Flicker Street," and continue to decorate the album to its conclusion, whether it's alongside the showy guitar solos of "Always Raining in My Town" or the jumpy playfulness of "Twenty-Two," which possesses not only pure fun, thanks to the rhythm, but a sophisticated, liquid breakdown and mood-altering key change at the chorus.

There's no question that Jake Winstrom, on every track the lead singer, is the band's anchor. Not only is his voice virtuosic and flexible, but it's pretty much androgynous, making its relationship to Robinson's harmonies even lovelier and more familial. Without such vocal power this type of music would falter and fade, leaning on instrumentation that could only attempt the deeply moving inflections that the singer gives them. Occasionally neither works, as on "Paper Thin," when Winstrom leans to the background and lets the guitars strut simplistically along. This fusion of country and rock is something a publicist's one-sheet (nay, a 500-word review) could easy make ridiculous in quick, toss-away descriptions, but upon listening it more often than not turns nebulous, disparate artifacts into an impressive indie melting pot. - Stylus

"NWTBE review by Wayne Bledsoe"

I’ve said it over and over: Knoxville is experiencing a musical golden age. The best evidence that Knox rock is vibrant can be found in the release of three great new rock discs.

"New Ways to Butcher English," The Tenderhooks (www.myspace.com/tenderhooks)

The Tenderhooks are one of those acts that is distinctively different and lovably familiar at the same time. The band's adherence to power pop hooks and melody is reassuring and immediately likable. However, vocalist Jake Winstrom's twisty high-voice is one of those things that is disconcerting at first and later becomes addictive. It sounds fragile and delicate on the beautiful "Are You Gonna Wait Forever" and "Starlight," yet it's surprisingly powerful and vehement at others - especially on the terrific opening track "Customer Service."

Winstrom and guitarist Ben Oyler write songs that are easy on the ears, but dig deep into your brain. "Let the Artist Starve" is a fun commentary on living with an artist who isn't exactly a breadwinner

The group's "Vidalia," was a terrific debut, but "New Ways to Butcher English" is even better. - Scripps Howard


"Vidalia" LP (Rock Snob Records)
"New Ways to Butcher English" (R-Dog)



Tenderhooks are a lyrical indie rock band with a progressive bent, hailing from Knoxville TN's eclectic music scene. Known for their energetic live shows, Tenderhooks' literate wordplay and sharp melodicism are complemented by crunchy riffs and idiosyncratic guitar work. Add into the mix beautiful harmonies and subtle arrangements and you have one of the most vital new sounds in rock. Tenderhooks' first full-length LP Vidalia was recorded and produced by Superdrag's Don Coffey Jr. and subsequently released by Knoxville upstart Rock Snob Records. A national tour, including dates with the Fiery Furnaces, Deerhoof, Rhett Miller, and a slot at the 2007 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival soon followed.
In early 2008 Tenderhooks hooked up with producer Dan Chertoff in his hometown of New York City to commence work on their second LP. The album was recorded in several sessions of live tracking, the last of which included co-production by 'General' George Fullan (Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick). The resulting album, New Ways to Butcher English, retains the tuneful tendencies of its predecessor while marking huge steps forward for the band in terms of lyrical scope, ensemble focus, and raw nerve. Tenderhooks will begin touring in support of the album in the fall of 2008 and plan to continue indefinitely through the following year.

Contact Rickdobbis@r-dog.biz for more information