The Molenes
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The Molenes

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | SELF

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | SELF
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"Molenes Hope 3rd CD is a Charm"

By Chad Berdntson

Music preview - Rising stars
If you've spent any time following the Molenes, you'll want to spend more of it with "Good Times Comin'" - it's the album you knew they had in them. And if you haven't, now would be a good time to pick up the story: one of the best in the not-uncrowded ranks of New England alt-country and country-rock bands. Now the Molenes finally have an album worthy of the reputation of a crackerjack live outfit.
Formed in Portsmouth in 2005, the Molenes previously released two full-length albums, including 2008's "Songs of Sin and Redemption." The promise that album held is more fully realized on "Good Times Comin'," a broadly satisfying mix of country rock (think Tom Petty), Jayhawks-style folk and good ol' fashioned honky-tonk.

"The last album kind of had the theme of being the ups and downs - the sin and redemption, the dark times and good times . . . and they were all little vignettes," said singer/guitarist Dave Hunter, who writes the Molenes' originals and also produced the album. "Our thinking was that we're still in hard times, but, hopefully, good times are coming. Little slices of life: some of them have twists, some of them have kind of evil hillbilly stuff, we've got a bluegrass-style murder ballad, we've got rockers . . ."
The official album release date is Tuesday, but the band headlines a late show at Cambridge's Lizard Lounge on Saturday, one of three CD release parties the band has planned in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine during the next few weeks. (They're also on the bill for Gram National, a two-day celebration of Gram Parsons, Nov. 5-6 at Precinct in Somerville.)
One of the most notable developments in the Molenes today is that they're once again a four piece: the core of Hunter, bassist Andrew Russell and drummer/percussionist Zach Field, joined by pedal steel ace Bruce Derr, a frequent guest of the band who's now a full member.

Derr, a well-known session player and sideman who's recorded with Slaid Cleaves and Patty Griffin, among others, is as much a presence on "Good Times Comin'" as anyone, whether he's coloring songs with shimmery steel tone, wailing like a rock guitarist, or playing buoyant counterpoint to Hunter's commanding leads.
"Sometimes bands with full-time steel players, they have guys who just want to kind of play traditional country, and all those licks sound a little cliched after a while," Hunter said. "But he'll play on the rock songs and wail, or provide more atmospheric sounds, and on the country songs he'll be very inventive. He's not afraid to get into overdrive and make it scream a little. It's such a huge pleasure to play with him."
The Molenes have done much to cultivate a presence in New England, particularly the corridor between Boston and southern Maine, where its members live.
But in 2011, they'll begin branching out: there's a New York date on the books for January, and the band is also eyeing gigs in Philadelphia and as far out as Nashville and Cincinnati.
"We feel really good about this album, and we feel it's worth putting the work in," Hunter said. "It was something we meant to do with the last album and the logistics were just tough. Like a lot of bands at this level, and a lot of independent bands, we all have to do a little something else for work, too. And we're not in our early 20s anymore, and with the exception of Zack, in our early 30s, either. So it's something we have to feel good about."
Copyright 2010
- The Patriot-Ledger (Boston)


"Good Times Comin' by The Molenes"

From the moment guitarist Dave Hunter and pedal-steel player Bruce Derr begin exchanging gritty licks on the opening track “Blood and Bone,” The Molenes’ new album sears with roots-rock attitude.
Bassist Andrew Russell and drummer Zach Field round out this alt-country quartet, with vocalist Jess Hunter making a couple of appearances. “Good Times Comin’” is the Portsmouth band’s third full-length album, and it builds on the best of the first two, “This Car Is Big” and “Songs of Sin and Redemption.”
Front man Hunter, who hails from the Midwest, wrote all 11 original songs on the new disc. The twang of his guitar and the drawl of his voice, particularly on numbers like “Hot Damn” and “Ten Pound Hammer,” conjure images of southern honky-tonk bars. Driven by scorching instrumental duels between Hunter and Derr, the music is hard country you don’t have to be ashamed of liking.
The lyrics deal with traditional country themes, like unfaithful women and hard-drinkin’, ramblin’ men. “Started off all peaches and cream, it was a nonstop honeymoon / Found out, lord, she’d been steppin’ out, it was over but it went too soon,” Hunter sings in “Good Luck Charm.”
The album closes with the title track, a jazzy instrumental number during which Hunter and Derr really unleash their impressive guitar talents. You can almost hear the smiles on their faces as they tear into indulgent solos.
- The Wire


"THe Molenes Good Times Comin'"

Goddamn, this is some quality tuneage here! From our fair Granite State, the Molenes are whipping up a delicious plate of roots-rock (or whatever they call it these days) that doesn’t fail to move me. Listening to this gets me daydreaming of hitting the rocky road, casually driving over to some highway diner and attempting to order a meal as tasty as this music. Don’t you wish you could eat music sometimes? If that were possible I’d chow this album down like a chicken leg. Munchy words aside, I’m having a good time with it. Some of the lyrics seem a little typical of the genre, but they’re hardly cliché-ridden. The music’s what counts, anyway. These guys CRACK! And they’re catchy like crack. The pedal-steel guitar’s got a killer, lonesome sound, eerie and beautiful, while the other guitar gets behind the wheel and drives the tunes to the store! (Tony Mellor) - The Noise


"The Molenes get dark and low-down"

By Sam Pfeifle

Roots music is a big tent. The Molenes have poked their noses into just about every corner of it over the course of their first two records, trying out everything from bluegrass to rockabilly and moving from ripping twanged-out guitar solos to more refined acoustic finger-picking.
For their third disc, Good Times Comin', they embrace that twang more tightly, especially featuring pedal-steel player Bruce Derr, who was more of an invited guest the last time around. Most importantly, frontman Dave Hunter now has the foil and counterpart he's seemed to have been searching for on the first two discs.
These guys just seem to be having a blast, trading off licks like two world-class tennis players lithely volleying. "Hot Damn" is an old-school Texas swing piece that could have been written by Johnny Cash or Jerry Lee Lewis when they were first barnstorming the south. This is the kind of thing that could be utterly cornball without real-deal chops, but this piece is perfectly authentic — Hunter and Derr are very, very good players. Sometimes, it's that simple.
But, yeah, it's still a little corny, with lines about "my ramblin' shoes" and a gal who "messed around, all over town." The Molenes have never been overly cynical or ironic, but this record is as straight-ahead as they've been — they even have a song called "Straight Ahead," which is one of two poppier country tunes here: "come on missy, jump inside/Me and you are overdue to take that long ride."
If this album is defined by anything, separates itself from your standard genre piece, it's the low-end, the way Dave Hunter can make his electric guitar snarl and bite like that junkyard dog from Lean on Me. It fires up the beginning of album-opening "Blood and Bone" and rips through the tracks that follow, supported by swaggering Andrew Russell bass lines and Zach Field drums that are most distinguished by the snare, a thump like a punch to the gut.
The record also just sounds crisp, thanks to a nuanced mix from Paul Q. Kolderie (Uncle Tupelo), whether it's that low-end electric guitar growl or a pretty acoustic guitar open like the one on "Miracle Cure," the other poppy tune, where Hunter posits, "saints and apostles, used to blacken the moon at my birth/Did you ever see, such a miserable, misbegotten wretch, walk the face of this earth?"
And there's a fair amount of that kind of imagery here, the hard-life staple of country music for as long as people have been going down the road feeling bad. The protagonist here has "aches in place I can't name." You might suspect these guys have smiles on their faces while they detail these tales of woe, but they're also clearly paying homage to tradition. For roots fans, it's cool to hear them sing about old-time radio while mimicking the '60s pop-country sound in "Rockin' Monophonic;" Hunter's love of music history is palpable.
It's fun, too, to hear them take Merle Travis one better by moving his "Nine Pound Hammer" along a notch with the "Ten Pound Hammer," which is "gonna know a hole through to the souls below." Hunter and Derr positively blow the solo up here.
And then there is the album-finishing "Good Times Comin'," an utterly ripping Dixie jazz number, all instrumental and as bouncy and fast-moving as anything the Hot Club of Cowtown has put out. The guitar work is just pristine, and the contrast between the rapidity of the finger-picking on the electric and the slow whine of the pedal steel is sublime.
I confess that I'd like to see this kind of expert playing and understanding of music history employed with a tad more edge and pushing of the creative envelope. When the bass line of "Penny in the Sun" reminds of the Weakerthans, there's definitely a pang of desire for them to move more in that kind of bitter direction ("I Hate Winnipeg," anyone?).
But that's not the Molenes' bag. Rather, with a song like "Four Feet Under," which plays like a new-country version of "Circle Be Unbroken," they show they're perfectly happy living and breathing inside the traditions they're building upon: "Somewhere I have a sister who loves me/Somewhere a mother still feels the pull."
The Molenes have taken the mother tongue of American roots music and shown once again they are utterly fluent.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached atsam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.
GOOD TIMES COMIN' | Released by the Molenes | with the Coming Grass and Amanda Gervasi | at Empire Dine and Dance, in Portland | Oct 23 |www.themolenes.com
- Portland Phoenix


"New Sounds Close to Home"

By Jonathan Perry
October 1, 2010
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Roughly two seconds — OK, maybe three — into “Blood and Bone,’’ which opens the Molenes’ strong third album, you know exactly where singer-songwriter Dave Hunter’s heart lies: south of the Mason-Dixon. Which is saying something, as these hard-charging honky-tonk stylists are New England born and bred, from Maine to Massachusetts to New Hampshire. Never mind that they mostly call Portsmouth home.
As “Rockin’ Monophonic,’’ one of the disc’s best rave-ups attests, these are geographically universal songs about rootlessness and restlessness; about being “a long way from nowhere, lost in static on your FM dial.’’ Ah, if only such poetic nuisances still existed (a dicey digital stream just doesn’t have the same metaphorical allure, does it?).
With a clear-eyed, no-nonsense mix from Paul Q. Kolderie, who knows a thing or three about making Americana records (see: Uncle Tupelo), the Molenes’ sturdy, straightforward strengths are placed front and center, with room to roam under their big sky of blues, greens, and golden sunsets suffused with peals of pedal steel. It all starts with Hunter’s gritty, conversational tenor and resonant — and Resophonic — guitars (“Four Feet Under’’ is a Stones-meets-Son Volt gem). But make no mistake, the Molenes sound very much like an intuitively integrated band, not some solo rhinestone cowboy surrounded by hired hands. Bruce Derr’s expressive pedal steel wraps itself around the cool Western swing of “Hot Damn’’; and thanks to drummer Zach Field, “Love Me’’ carries a primal dose of Bo Diddley’s beat mixed with Guadalcanal Diary’s cowpunk hoodoo. Meanwhile, bassist Andrew Russell proves his point by gracefully gluing it all together without making a fuss.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company. - The Boston Globe


"THe Molenes Shine on Good Times Comin'"

By Christopher Hislop
October 07, 2010 2:00 AM
Alt-country, roots rock, Americana, honky-tonk, rockabilly — there are many bins you could toss Seacoast-based rockers The Molenes into. Their latest release, "Good Times Comin' " paints a picture of a band getting infinitely better as time goes by. While the recipe hasn't changed drastically over the span of the three records the band has put out; the fine-tuned craftsmanship and artistic abilities that the group accrued through the last five years of playing really shines through on this latest effort.
Right out of the gate you know the band is looking to hit it out of the park with this release. The opening cut, "Blood and Bone," sounds like the product of a fiery jam session between Uncle Tupelo and ZZ Top where a case of Bud and a bottle of Jack are being shared liberally. Dave Hunter (lead vocals, guitars) makes no qualms about letting you know through his rockin' drawl that "we built this thing from blood and bone / read the word that's etched into the stone." The lyrics could in fact be read as script that the Molenes have been doing this for a chunk of time now, are deserving of some listening attention, and intent on getting their tunes out to a more widespread audience. They've built this sound from blood and bone. It's real, it's raw, and it's not glossed over. Andrew Russell (bass, backing vocals), and Zach Field (drums, percussion) keep the rhythm flowing in a steady, thumping fashion, while Bruce Derr's immaculate pedal steel playing really ties the whole thing together.
Speaking of Uncle Tupelo, the disc is mixed by Paul Kolderie, who, along with Uncle Tupelo has worked with The Pixies, Radiohead, and Dinosaur Jr. which is to say, he's kind of a big deal and brings with him a wealth of experience and industry know-how capable of pushing the Molenes to the next level.
Overall, "Good Times Comin' " is a strong statement from a band who have been places but are still cruisin' along looking for their place in the promised land. As the title suggests, good times are coming, so stay aboard and in the meantime, relish in the offering the Molenes have delivered here. Their Myspace page suggests that the band is "sponsored by pulled pork and IPA," which may be the single best description you can pack into one line.
Oh, and they just so happen to be playing a CD release show at Mojo's BBQ and Tavern on Saturday, Oct. 16 where you can get your pulled pork, beer, and fine tunes from "Good Times Comin'" all in one convenient location.
Check it.
- The Portsmouth Herald


"Drinking and Driving: The Molenes Release Songs of Sin and Redemption"

by Sam Pfeifle

Country music has that bad rap for being nothing but songs for sad sacks with dead dogs, lost women, and drinking problems, but country music got ruined by over-production and under-performance, not the content of the lyrics. In fact, there’s nothing at all wrong with reveling in whiskey, beer, bitter women, and sweet heartache, as long as the guitars are hot, the backbeat’s driving, and no one expects me to feel an ounce of sympathy.

Dave Hunter and his Molenes know this well, and their second album, Songs of Sin and Redemption, shows they’re more than just a guitar band (Hunter is a ripping guitar player; the first Molenes album, This Car Is Big, had maybe too much evidence of that fact), with plenty of banjo, organ (Thomas Ferry’s doing), dobro, pedal steel (from guest Bruce Derr), and an ability to cruise around much of the Americana songbook, from bluegrass to rockabilly to country and pop rock.

The new disc’s first two tracks are evidence enough, with “Redemption” introducing a rolling right hand on the banjo in the left channel, then a quickly accompanying mandolin in the right. Finally, Andrew Russell’s bass joins in and ushers the instrumental into a melodic chorus. Everything’s quick, but not trying too hard. Then, at the one-minute mark, you start to hear it — Is there a mic on somewhere it shouldn’t be? Is your speaker blown? — a feedback drone low in the mix that builds into an almost painful thrum, finally crashing into “There’s a Sufferin’,” which introduces a great falling-down hook paired with a wood-block keeping time (drummer Zach Field is excellent throughout) and a warm guitar tone that is classic alt-country.

If you’re a headphone listener, you might find the band overuse the trick of isolating instruments in one channel or the other, but you can’t say they don’t pay attention to the production here, as Jon Nolan combines with the band to layer in the many instruments (most of them stringed) wonderfully. The closing “Trouble in the Corn,” especially, does everything right, from the pairing of the low lead vocals with the high harmony in the chorus to the deranged dobro/electric guitar break in the bridge and the late congas.

“Silver Stars” sounds a little like a Dick Curless tune, “Pain Express” could have been on Nashville Skyline, and “Step on It” features shades of the Dead’s Workingman's Dead, mirroring Jerry’s guitar tone beautifully. This 12-tune collection represents a tremendous upgrade over the Molenes debut and establishes them as one of New England's premier alt-country/Americana bands. If you get a chance to see them, take advantage of it, and ask for “Beacom’s Farm,” which must just be positively revelatory live, a “Devil Went Down to Georgia” for the new century. - The Phoenix


"(Review) Songs of Sin and Redemption"

by Tim Peacock

Our Rating: ********
THE MOLENES' debut album 'This Car Is Big' was a gutsy, roots-rock affair. It was – and remains - a fine, Uncle Tupelo-style blowout, ideal for anyone who relates to rousing anthems celebrating hard times for honest men.

It seems that Dave Hunter's men have been consolidating on the 'Roots' part of their roots-rock approach across the course of the intervening twelve months. The self-explanatory 'Songs of Sin & Redemption' is an excellent follow-up, but it draws water from a much deeper well of traditional folk and country than its' predecessor.

Hunter is credited with 'things with strings' as well as the regular guitar, vocals and harmonica, and its' easy to hear why on the opening 'Redemption'. With its' earthy banjos, mandolins and rattling drums, it's the sound of something particularly wicked and Appalachian careering this way. It's by no means the only time they get back to the land, either. Witness the fingers-flying Bluegrass-influenced sound of the blitzing 'Step On It' or 'Beacon's Farm': a Violent Femmes-style country death song complete with burning haystacks and retribution by moonlight. Whoo!!

Elsewhere, Hunter & co peddle a convincing line in folky fatalism. Songs like 'Grey Haze' and the sad'n'blue 'You Are Not Gone' (“there's more than one way to drown around here”) are graceful semi-ballads aching with devastation. The Dave and Jess Hunter duet 'Silver Stars' taps into Gram and Emmy Lou territory and the mighty fine 'Pain Express' is especially striking, pivoting around a bassline akin to Booker T's 'Time Is Tight' before sealing the Southern soul deal with Tom Ferry's Spooner Oldham-style Hammond organ.

The Molenes' desire to get their amped-up kicks seems a little more muted as a result, though there's no denying the convincing cut'n'thrust of the album's trio of crunching rockers. 'There's A Suffering' mainlines on Replacements-style energy; the equally no-nonsense 'Charlotte Lights' is a rousing road song and the punchy 'Fall For This Again' demonstrates The Molenes are rapidly patenting their own brand of gritty'n'spangly, Byrds-y rockers.

Nonetheless, it's fitting that 'Songs of Sin & Redemption' should culminate with the brooding hangman's tale 'Trouble In The Corn'. Built around a droning, dobro-assisted country-blues, it's a graphic meeting-your-maker tale (“old Jerry danced on the scaffold, old Jerry kissed the sky”) and the perfect way for an album veering 'tween the angels and devils to take its' final, whiskey-stained breath.

'Songs of Sin & Redemption' is a tremendous sophomore effort. The Molenes are rightly becoming renowned as one of New England's best Americana-related outfits and their authentic grasp of roots-rock stylings is fast becoming a joy for the ear to behold. - Whisperin & Hollerin


"Hillbilly Rock"

The Molenes pack bluegrass and twang into new disc
by Matt Kanner

The album begins with an instrumental bluegrass jam titled “Redemption.” The introductory track weaves strains of banjo and mandolin into a driving, rockabilly drumbeat, knitting together a timeless sound that follows the roots of American music. As the tune begins to fade, amplified feedback drowns out the jam, making way for the country-rock guitar riff of “There’s a Sufferin’.”

It’s a striking transition, and one that might surprise fans of The Molenes’ first album, “This Car Is Big.” Emerging more than 18 months after the debut disc, “Songs of Sin and Redemption” wraps together all the rootsy elements that define The Molenes’ style, from blues to bluegrass, rock to rockabilly. The band will unveil its new effort with a CD release show at The Press Room on Saturday, May 3.

“We feel like this is kind of more representative of what we’re like as a band now,” said front man Dave Hunter. “It really kind of says who we are more and it speaks to the kind of music we want to play.”

That music has its roots in Hunter’s native Midwest. The singer-songwriter was born in Kansas and grew up in Cincinnati. He began tinkering with guitar while in his early teens, emulating the styles of classic rockers like Hendrix and Zeppelin, as well as early punk bands like The Clash. But no matter what he tried to mimic, Hunter found that a Midwestern twang invariably worked its way into his playing.

“It always had come out a little bit twangy, even though I was playing what was really just rock or punk,” Hunter said. “My mom’s side of the family is from down in rural Kentucky and my dad’s side of the family is from rural Indiana, and we ended up in the middle in Cincinnati, so that’s probably where all that twang comes from.”

Hunter also spent close to a decade in London, where he played with indie rock band Drugstore and other groups. He settled on the Seacoast with his wife and two children in 2004 and formed The Molenes shortly thereafter, but a spree of lineup changes ensued. The band has gone through three drummers and three bass players, ultimately settling on drummer Zach Field, who hales from Amesbury, Mass., and bassist Andrew Russell, who lives in Kennebunk, Maine. Keyboardist Thomas Ferry, a fellow Seacoast resident, is an original member.

The current lineup has been together for about a year and has managed to hone a distinctive style despite rarely having occasion to rehearse. Because the band members are spread across three states, they typically only perform together during actual gigs. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to the album. On “Songs of Sin and Redemption,” the four instrumentalists, along with guest Bruce Derr on pedal steel and vocalist Jess Hunter singing on two tracks, demonstrate individual skill and comfort that translate into a collective understanding of the band’s sound.

Although the group is often tagged with labels of Americana or alt-country, Hunter does not think of The Molenes as a country band. He prefers to describe the sound simply as rootsy American music with a range of influences.

“It’s hard to describe what the music is. I’m sure a lot of songwriters would agree that you write what comes out and you probably end up trying to define it afterwards,” Hunter said. “I mean, obviously there’s a lot of rock in there, but also some rockabilly, maybe a little blues, but more what people think of as being hillbilly-rock kind of elements.”

For the new album, Hunter had written 30 to 35 songs for the band to choose from. He considered doing a lengthy concept album, but later decided that two discs with 24 songs might be a bit daunting for local listeners. The quartet narrowed the track list down to 12 songs, and the instrumentalists pitched in their own parts to embellish Hunter’s melodies and words.
“We kind of ended up wanting it to be something of a journey through American music and just say, ‘Hell with it, as long as it’s got some rootsy and either rural or metropolitan twang elements to it, then we’ll throw it all in there,’” Hunter said.

Recorded partly at Milltown Recording Company in Newmarket and partly at NoHeadroom Studio in Portsmouth, the new album includes a range of songs tied together by the binary themes of sin and redemption. Songs like “Silver Stars” and “Charlotte Lights” include hopeful lyrics about love prevailing over hardship. Other songs, like “Pain Express” and “Trouble in the Corn,” tell of difficulties that are not so easily overcome.

“It really kind of divides down along those lines. A lot of the songs are about going astray, and there are other songs about just the quiet hope of finding out that things are working and that you’re saving yourself,” Hunter said. “Some of them are a slightly darker mood and other ones are lighter.”

At The Press Room on Saturday, The Molenes will be joined by local legend Dan Blakeslee. The show begins at 9 p.m., and the $8 door charge includes a copy of the new CD. The Molenes have other release shows coming up over the next several weeks in Boston, Manchester and Portland. For more info, visit www.themolenes.com.

After the rigors of putting together a professional recording, Hunter and his band mates look forward to performing new material for live audiences. They also hope to return to the studio in the not-too-distant future to record other new songs. - The Wire


"Review: This Car is Big"

by Martin England

"Every once in a while a great record will come along with so little fanfare, you'd almost think the artist was intentionally masking its release to keep the beauty all to themselves... This Car is a melding of rockabilly, country, gospel, and roots. More descriptively, it's pure grease monkey rock armed with turquoise tail fins and Vaseline hair-dos. It bears the innocence of Whiskeytown's Faithless Street, the wide-swing tremolo of X's Los Angeles, and the simplicity of Springsteen's Nebraska, complete with haunting harmonicas and earthquake whammy bar groans." - Spotlight Magazine


"The Molenes: Sin, Redemption, and the American Dream"

by Chris Elliott

When you think of Portsmouth rock bands, you don't usually hear a twang in your head. Americana, country rock, alt country, whatever half dozen or so syllables of music journalist pith serves to describe modern versions of traditional American music adequately to you, it is usually ascribed to other areas of the USA.

By the numbers though, nothing could be further from the truth. Mandolins and acoustic guitars have always adorned Pondering Judd's recordings, and former Say Zuzu founder Jon Nolan has made a small empire in Newmarket recording and promoting his own music as well as other bands that owe more to Buck Owens than they do Chuck Berry.
WHAT CD RELEASE PARTY FOR THE MOLENES' "SONGS OF SIN AND REDEMPTION"

WHEN Saturday, May 3, music starts at 9 p.m. with a set from the mighty Dan Blakeslee

WHERE The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth

COST $8 cover includes a free copy of the new CD for everyone through the door, or the second person of a couple coming in can enter for the standard cover charge of $6

CONTACT 431-5186, www.pressroomnh.com, www.themolenes.com

A relative newcomer in this field of inadequately described local music is The Molenes, led by David Hunter on guitar and vocals. Hunter, a music journalist by profession, is sympathetic to the difficulty of illuminating music through the written and printed word, and as such perhaps a bit more forgiving than he otherwise would be.

"American, alt country, none of it seems to fit exactly, but it's all close enough to give people a feel for what we do," Hunter said with a shrug over a short cappuccino at Caffe Kilim recently. "The best way to find out what we do is to come to a show." The Molenes have just released their second CD, "Songs of Sin and Redemption," and are embarking on a series of dates to promote the recording. The first thing you notice in listening to The Molenes is, holy moley, what a great guitar player. There is a tradition in Nashville of gunslinger lead players that can tear your head off with a nearly impossible sounding barrage of exquisitely executed acrobatic guitar leads. Vanguards of this style of playing include Danny Gatton, John Jorgenson, Brent Mason, Vince Gill, and more recently, Johnny Hiland.

Hunter himself would probably blush to be included in this list, and in all fairness to readers, he is not quite in that league, but north of Tennessee you'll be hard pressed to find guitarists with a more evolved understanding of Fender Telecaster chicken pickin'. Also cool is Hunter's understanding of the tools of the trade.

One of the most delightful aspects of listening to the great Nashville guitarists is the wide array of tones that the best equipment can deliver. As a frequent contributor to Guitar Player and numerous other nationally distributed guitar magazine, he is often called upon to analyze fine guitars and amplifiers, and as a result, has an unusually nuanced understanding of guitar tones.

Some of the guitar work is sparkling clean, some sprinkled with just a touch of overdrive, and some is just out and out raucous roadhouse distortion. Guitar players who want to attend a good rocking show and at the same time observe a clinic in fine six-string presentation will appreciate The Molenes' live show.

Hunter arrived on the N.H. Seacoast in 2004, after a hop across the pond from England. It's not exactly a British invasion, as Hunter hails from the Midwest, Cincinnati specifically, with much of his family hailing from Kentucky. All of these disparate influences are identifiable in Hunter's music.

"My wife is British. We lived in England for a while, but lived here previously as well. It's a beautiful area, and this is where we'll live and raise our kids," Hunter said. He and his wife have two children, 5 and 7 years old.

A band leader is nothing without his band, and Hunter adopts an almost reverential tone when speaking of his band mates. "We finally have the band we always wanted. Beside myself, there is only one original member of The Molenes. We play well together, and we respect and admire one another completely." Drummer Zach Fields is from Amesbury Mass. and may be known to Seacoast area residents as having played with a number of the better local folk rock and Americana bands and solo artists in the area including Kate Redgate, Jon Nolan, and the Mill City Ramblers. He gets the freight train snare drum rhythm going as well as any drummer working in the area and can bring the band from a whisper to a scream with a single rim shot.

Andrew Russell, the group's bassist, locks nicely into Zach Fields' steady groove, providing a sturdy underpinning for Hunter's guitar pyrotechnics. His tone is round and smooth, and his selfless role-playing in the band is a subtle mix of harmonic adventurism and rhythmic steadiness.

Rounding out the quartet is Thomas Ferry, an organist from Connecticut who landed on the N.H. Seacoast 10 years ago. He has found a comfortable home in The Molenes, providing a chirpy Hammond organ chord bed as well as occasional single note right hand soloing.

As long as we are bandying about insufficient terminology to describe The Molenes, let's be brave and invoke the "B" word. Both in terms of feel and lyric content, there is one genre not often cited in previous journalistic consideration of The Molenes that seems to be begging for a mention, and that is bluegrass. The new CD's title alone invokes a bluegrass sensibility.

The immediate dissonance here is the presence of drums, but the songs often have an alternating bass line, through the nose harmonies, and lyrics so lonesome it's enough to make you break out the moonshine. Hunter cops to it unashamedly. "I've always loved bluegrass. If we can create the spirit of acoustic bluegrass music in an electric band, I think that's an accomplishment.

Your best opportunity to get a feel for The Molenes is probably going to be at The Press Room on May 3. Accompanying the band that night will be the great Bruce Derr, a master of pedal steel guitar. The songs have a refreshing lack of pretense and the singing is unaffected and honest, and isn't that what Americana/alt country/country blues/bluegrass music is all about? - Portsmouth Herald


Discography

Good Times Comin' (2010)
Songs of Sin and Redemption (2008)
This Car Is Big (2006)

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Bio

"A Stones-meets-Son Volt gem," says the Boston Globe, while The Noise simply raves, "Goddamn, this is some quality tuneage here!". However you look at it, the new album Good Times Comin' is a major step up for The Molenes. Melding hard-twang melodies, steam-train rhythms, and an evocative lyricism, The Molenes have been firing up the Americana/Alt-Country scene since the band’s first release in 2006. Their acclaimed 2008 album Songs of Sin And Redemption brought comparisons to Son Volt’s burnished swagger, Steve Earle’s trenchant storytelling, and Whiskey Town’s hip country esthetic, though in truth The Molenes toe none of these lines, and instead brew a breed of “rock’n’roll with twang” that’s entirely their own. Simultaneously harder, deeper, and sweeter than anything they have done to date, new release GOOD TIMES COMIN’ represents a band striving for—and attaining—a new position on the Americana/Alt-Country landscape. A concept album in the best sense of the term, though one with a punch-drunk plot and no fixed chronology, it weaves a people's history of America, a tale touched by disenfranchisement and loss, certainly, but one ultimately buoyed by hopes for good times comin'. Mixed by acclaimed producer Paul Q. Kolderie (Uncle Tupelo, Radiohead, the Pixies), Good Times Comin’ also finds singer/guitarist/ songwriter Dave Hunter and band members Andrew Russell (bass, vocals), Bruce Derr (pedal-steel guitar), and Zach Field (drums) sounding more confident and accomplished sonically than ever before.