If there’s one thing that could be called a definable trend in current Maine music, it’s the wave of young, ambitious country and Americana bands that have surged in number and popularity over the past few years. The Mallett Brothers Band and North of Nashville, landing on the country-rock side. Gunther Brown, the Tricky Britches and the Ghost of Paul Revere, with a more Americana/bluegrass kind of thing. All Maine-made, all regularly drawing big crowds to bars and venues both in-state and on tour.
You can add another name to that list — Joe Gallant, an enterprising young songwriter from Portland who, with his band the Transit, has just released a new EP, “The Rise and the Fall.” A record release party is set for Saturday, June 7 at Empire in Portland, with Jake Hill & Deep Creek and Carleigh Nesbit; he’ll also play Saturday, June 14 at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor with Jake Hill and Jim Betts.
“The Rise and the Fall” isn’t the first release for Gallant, a Bath native, but it certainly is his most polished and mature-sounding collection of songs. His first EP, “My Own Divide,” came out in late 2011, and showcased a much more pop-rock sensibility. With this new album, a country-rock sound has not only crept in — it’s become the dominant influence, bringing to mind artists like similarly-rootsy John Mellencamp, Garth Brooks and a bit of Tom Petty, as well as a tinge of Ryan Adams’ lyrical punch.
“I dig the alt-country sound for a lot of reasons — namely the fact that I have a canvas to be able to mix some more aggressive and kicking songs in with some more light hearted and fun stuff, and never lose stride,” said Gallant. “I like the conversational style of writing that the music calls for as well. This for me just felt natural.”
Gallant grew up with music on in the house — both his parents were big music fans. The soundtrack to his childhood creeped into the music he’d later make.
“Due to my old man’s stellar taste in music I listened to a lot of blues artists as a kid,” he said. “I didn’t really play guitar until I was in college, though it was always something that really intrigued me. I didn’t take lessons as a beginner.”
“The Rise and the Fall” was produced by Jonathan Wyman at the Halo in Westbrook, and is as crisp and professional-sounding as Wyman’s work tends to be. Gallant enlists musicians including Darren Hicks and Karl Anderson from the Wrecking, Mama’s Boomshack guitar wunderkid Sam Berce, and drummer Dan Capaldi. He also brings in some guest vocalists, including Will Mallet from the Mallett Brothers Band on the song “Sweet Rebellion” and Portland songbird Amy Allen on “Nashville Soon.”
It’s Gallant’s distinctive gruff-but-melodic vocals that anchor the five tracks on the album, though — a little Ryan Adams, a little M. Ward, shot through with a dash of Jack Johnson. Add him to the list of up and coming country-influence songwriters making their name in the Maine music scene.
Joe Gallant and the Transit’s “The Rise and the Fall” is available for download on iTunes and for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp.