Drama and energy from an upcoming band
The album cover of Dustbowl Revival’s latest album depicts a collage of images upon a background of the bright pale orange of dawn or maybe dusk. The title of the album suggests a dichotomy they can’t quite comprehend, suggesting a separateness that isn’t so separate after all. To ask the title question, Is It You, Is It Me incorporates various genres into their catalogue of narrative songs that create a sound and mood of modern American folk music.
Zach Lupetin, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, began his career intending to write plays. Lupetin turned to music instead but clearly did not forego his love of drama while working with Dustbowl Revival. “Penelope,” one of the album’s more endearing songs, tells the story of first love and hoping never get older. Amid the nostalgia and “hiding under the bleachers” is far-off dusk, in unimaginable in the daylight of adolescence.
To contrast “Penelope,” the following song “Get Rid of You” looks with nostalgia to the future, dreaming of “getting a little older and wiser” to “get rid of you.” In this case, however, the song is about gun control, and the band hardly shies away from direct political statements in addition to a more veiled metaphor. “Get Rid of You” starts off with such a gentle and inviting groove, it’s jarring to hear them ask “Is your AR-15 worth more than my life? How do you sleep at night?” The band can write about young love and modern political discord with equally sentimental facility. For Dustbowl Revival, the personal and political coexist and should do so in their music.
The band uses a wide variety of genres and sounds on the album. True to their claim that their music is a “place where folk music, funk and soul meet,” the album also exhibits influence from jazz, pop and Latin music. The lead singers Lupetin and Liz Beebe, whose voices are rich and strong when they sing separately, harmonize for a sound that is plaintive and encouraging. The trumpet and trombone, played by Matt Rubin and Ulf Bjorlin, add a layer of velvety melancholy to most of the songs. Nearly every song relies on the two horn players to enrich the emotional experience and are one of the band’s best strengths.
Like their earlier work, Is It You, Is It Me shows a range of styles that the band incorporates for a cohesive sound, but the album departs from their last album in its preoccupation with complexity and contradiction. This album is more introspective in content, more emotional in mood and more lush in sound. Though some parts of the album are so polished the edges have been completely smoothed away, the album is a fresh and energetic collage.