Don't let the endlessly head-bobbable garage-folk stylings of Providence, Rhode Island's Deer Tick fool you into thinking that these are happy songs. Frontman John McCauley follows in the tradition of alt-country, blues, folk and punk, which is to say he smashes them all together and comes out howling about love and loss.
McCauley was only 18 years old when he began Deer Tick as a solo project, and despite the revolving door of band members (including Ian O'Neil, formerly of Titus Andronicus), it is his heart and his memories that we are hearing when we crack open our cold ones on the screened porch and turn up the record player (or iPod dock).
"War Elephant," the band's first album, was released on Partisan Records in 2007 and has since propelled McCauley & Co. to household name status -- that is, indie-loving, festival-going households -- along with appreciative nods from NPR and tours with Neko Case. The band's latest, Divine Providence, kicks off with pure garage rock stomp and McCauley whooping, "We're full grown men / we act like kids," a statement perhaps no less wise for all its raucousness. The downtempo "Main Street," on the other hand, thrusts small town disaffection into stark relief (I'm surprised some politician hasn't snapped it up for a campaign fundraiser). By all accounts, McCauley is a dynamite frontman who can be silly and serious, a talented songwriter and musician who will cover Nirvana and Hank Williams in the same night.
All photos by Louis Kwok.