Fresh Tracks: The Bean Pickers Union “Caterwaul”

Sad songs make me happy. I am not sure what the logic is behind that, but there is something in hearing some sort of sorrow in a song that makes me feel alive and human in some way. Bean Pickers Union frontman and songwriter Chuck Melchin writes songs that strike that nerve with me more than most are able to and whenever I receive a note from him saying he has something new rumbling, I drop everything I am doing to dive into the abyss and just let myself steep there in the coffee stained smoke of his narratives. Its been 10 years since the release from the collective that made me an immediate fan. 2007’s Potlatch broke my heart and then put it back together in a way that I can’t recall any local releases I knew of did to me at that time. It was a new experience in listening from artists that were within my grasp and I could go see at the bar down the street in Cambridge or Somerville, rather than riffling through bins at a record shop to chase that feeling. It was a beautiful thing.

Caterwaul is a quickfire EP of songs that continue the aesthetic in which Melchin and crew thrive the most. An orchestra of rootsy strings swirling in tandem, Chuck’s voice and lyrics as the centerpiece to a dusty and worn arrangement of gorgeous tones and special intimacy that draw you in. Those tones and sailing strings courtesy of an assemblage of some of the best the region has to offer with Jess Fox on fiddle and vocal harmony, Eric Royer on banjo and dobro, Sean Staples on bouzouki, mandolin and guitar, and Dave Westner on bass and at the helm engineering at Woolly Mammoth in a live capacity. Perhaps that is where that intimacy comes from. The players are actually sitting there playing with each other, rather than some disjointed track by track way of creating a song. It feels honest and real and has a beating heart that is often times lost in a recording.

Consisting of 2 “new to me” songs in the solemn strum of “Aberdeen” and the haunting build of “Shadow Town” alongside new arrangements of one of my favorites of Melchin’s songs as the first track and the uptempo moving “Guy Clark’s Kitchen”, it may be a quick listen, but one you will want to listen to over and over.

So, get after it and pick this new release from The Bean Pickers Union today…