Back in 1982, author Stephen King launched his multi-dimensional Western saga, The Dark Tower series. He would take two decades to complete all seven parts, and with it combine the imaginations of J.R.R. Tolkien and Clint Eastwood for a series that would reinvent the lonesome cowboy hero. What King did to the classic western adventure, Portlands The Builders and The Butchers have done to the story telling, old west-inspired record. Like King borrowing from Tolkien, they have managed to use all the right parts with help from Johnny Cash by way of the Reverend Horton Heat and The Felice Brothers. Now on their second record, Salvation is a Deep Dark Well, the Builders continue down that dark and dusty trail they started on a few years back.
When your hearts deep and dark as a well, everything that is golden and green goes to hell is the opening message of the record that will resonate throughout as it moves from one barn burner to the next. Tracks like Devils Town and Short Way Home shuffle their way through old Americana dusting off themes of spirituality and frustrations with life. Speedy mandolins litter the record, and coupled with the horns of Barcelona create a Spanish influence that appears more than once and compliments the themes mentioned before which add a southwestern flavor. Raise Up Your Weary Hands takes this subtle direction once more as Ryan Solle warns of deals with the devil, which he seems to do a lot of.
These themes are a major part of the bands song writing as Salvation shuffles from one cautionary tail to the next. This style is very visual as it details the setting and the characters almost into fruition. Now while it’s far from anything new, for a generation born in the late eighties and nineties this could very well be a reintroduction to one of the original forms of American music. The most blatant throwback is the old gospel tune, and all too appropriate closer The World is a Top. The song ditches the over the top theatrics for a single guitar and simple vocal harmonies that, thanks to a lo-fi recording, hallmarks that distant past feeling as he sings We have to take it back one day.
The Builders are still a young band, and this record is an extension of their first since it’s apparent that they have discovered their niche amongst the cluster of folk inspired songwriters of the northwest. It’s funny how obvious pop-culture moves in cycles, and for the world of indie-rock we seem to be moving even farther back into baby-boomer territory. Music we would have brushed off at the beginning of the decade now stands amongst the elite, opening the doors for bands like The Builders to make headway. This record, like their last, adds grandiosity to the indie folk/country explosion in the way the Arcade Fire did for indie rock. Salvations energy blasts from the speakers and into the imagination like a soundtrack to those King novels, and provide almost the same escape. Just be sure you can find your way home when the music stops.