Reviews: Ethan Andrews (songwriter, Belfast), Welterweight (folk, Portland)

ethan andrewsIs Waldo County the home of a burgeoning lo-fi electro-folk scene? Between Hunter Finden, Earth Person and Ethan Andrews, there’s enough strange but compelling music coming out of the Midcoast right now to constitute something like that. Ethan Andrews — who by day writes for Village Soup’s Republican Journal — has been releasing a steady trickle of songs and EPs over the past few years, starting with 2013’s “Gold, Sapphire and Plum,” and, last month, “Bandmaster.” Though he’s been making music for more than two decades, his more recent efforts employ a kind of soft-spoken, wry blend of folk, pop and electronic elements, featuring Andrews’ chiming acoustic guitar playing and quavering vocals. “Bandmaster” is a short jaunt through Andrews’ musical world, at once jammy (album closer “Cold Standing,” which makes excellent use of electric piano) and pop-quirky (the charming “Snooze Button Fiesta”). Though it clocks in at a mere 16 minutes, “Bandmaster” is a fun introduction to Andrews’ music, of which there are numerous examples on his Bandcamp page. Belfast continues to be a source of some of the most engaging music in Maine.

welterweightLooking south, the Portland five-piece Welterweight in late August released a full-length, “A Vida Blue Moon,” an under-the-radar album that’s come as a very pleasant surprise to me, never having seen them live. Though it’s nominally an Americana album, featuring emotive mandolin, acoustic guitar and violin splashed across a stripped down but effective blend of percussion and upright bass, it, in many ways, is almost a country album — well, alt-country, or maybe even outlaw country. Lead singer and songwriter Doug Cowan’s songs span the “mad-bad-sad” gamut, as he says on the band’s website, though there’s a certain rogue attitude in there that’s a bit more on the punk rock side of things, rather than the tear-in-your-beer side of things. There are several standout tracks on “A Vida Blue Moon,” including the stomping, swinging title track; album opener “Here’s The Story,” as close to a rocker as the album gets, and “Harrydean,” which wouldn’t sound out of place sandwiched in between two mid-period R.E.M. songs. Mandolinist Greg Bjork is the band’s not-so-secret weapon, swinging between more overtly bluegrass-inspired licks and the more difficult-to-pull-off rock mandolin. There’s also an inspired cover of the Pixies’ “Hey” in the middle of the album, that’s in many ways a showcase for Bjork and violinist Tess Gionet’s synced-up playing. I do so enjoy stumbling across hidden gems like this album.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.