Welcome to Nevada City. The small town is infused with musical talent across several genres, and it’s all showcased on The Nevada City Album, a compilation put out by Dowd Records in celebration of the Nevada City Film Festival. As we come across each artist featured on the album, we can trace a progression of genre from mood music to courageous hard rock.
Our first stop is Brett Shady, a folk singer who describes his music on twitter as easy listening. His track “Dear Life” is a swaying waltz that endears all who it flutters by with Shady’s uncomplicated voice and some whimsical sax playing. Things get a little psychedelic with Aaron Ross farther along the album, with his own personal brand of freak folk in his song “Painted Sky.” Its endless and dreamy guitar riff, bejeweled synth melodies and odd backing vocals certainly paint an interesting sky– one that Lucy and Sgt. Pepper could gaze upon together. These indie tracks are echoed by “Peaks and Passes”, a fleeting gem on the album gifted to us by The Moore Brothers. A blues guitar riff and harmonies reminiscent of doo-wop or even gospel music make for an eclectic sound that shows how extensive the influences are around Nevada City. But we have only scratched the surface of the cavernous pool of genres on this compilation.
“Coming Down” by Jessica Lynn and Broken Spoke and “Heart on Fire” by Farrow and the Peach Leaves both rock a country/americana sound, with classic country vocals and roots-oriented guitar. “Heart on Fire” has a hint of happy-go-lucky energy to it, while “Coming Down” layers in some twangy guitar for a more western sound. Soon enough, however, the clouds roll in and that western sound darkens for Tiera May’s “Ballad of the Damned.” Her moody psych rock comes from rumbling guitars, atmospheric cymbal rolls and May’s apparition-like vocals that writhe through the air like the wails of a ghost. Less spectral but just as moody, the alt-rock track “400 Degrees” by Casual Fog uses slow, gloomy guitars and a rising bassline to create a perpetual, inevitable demeanour that carries you along with it.
Speaking of rock music, this compilation is an ecosystem of the genre, with diverse species that work together to cultivate an interesting and fruitful environment. First we travel back in time to the 80’s with “Hungry for the Dark,” by TLA, another alternative rock tune with lots of influence from punk and new wave. Its drum machine, prominent synth bassline and embellishments and the robotic lead vocals make you nostalgic for the post-punk era, no matter what year you were born in. Dipping into some electronica, “Lrn2love” by The Fit transports us to another planet entirely, with its glitching, cybernetic music and computerized vocals. The celestial rock bop “In Gratitude” by Shapes Freely, on the other hand, exists suspended in space. Its gentle vocals, orbiting synths and strings paint a vivid soundscape from outer space complete with stars, planets, rocket ships, and even extraterrestrial beings. On our way back down again, we meet “The Bad One” by Mount Whateverest, or, ‘the highest band on earth.’ This track is a product of what the band calls “solar powered fuzz and roll,” complete with slow, disjunct, infectious beats and a variety of vocals with different effects. Mount Whateverest utilizes whatever they can from saccharine pop melodies to big classic rock riffs to reach new heights with their music.
Finally, we reach the antipode of the easy, calm sound of “Dear Life” with the hard rock tracks “Killed Alive” by Cherry Rats and “Beverly Hills” by Beautiful Dudes. The former’s crashing drums and vigorous distorted guitar provide you with a taste of 2020 style classic rock. The Dudes are known for their cathartic hard rock sound and catchy hooks, and “Beverly Hills” certainly delivers, sounding grungy but upbeat in a vaguely Weezer-like way.
The Nevada City Album sought a varied and gifted assortment of artists in the area, scooped them up and unified them in a multifaceted compilation that has something for everyone. It’s well worth listening to, for when you find yourself drawn to some of the musicians, you know exactly where to look for live shows!