LAST YEAR, Roadside Graves released My Son's Home, a sprawling, 18-track epic that displayed the breadth of their ambition, even though it's a gentle and unassuming one: to make classic, goodtime rock music, and nothing more. It's tempting to describe the record as their Exile on Main St., a long, loose string of flashes and pips—minus the Stones' drug-heavy weariness, of course. But it's just as much their Basement Tapes, a tattered collection of American tunes that sound like they could come from any decade in our nation's history. Slide guitar, fiddle, accordion, and John Gleason's ragged, chapped tenor each take their turn guiding the songs to their heartwarming, satisfying conclusions.
The band's just-released You Won't Be Happy with Me is a follow-up EP recorded in the woods of Saranac Lake, New York, at the family vacation house of guitarist Jeremy Benson.
"We'd like to do all our records there from now on, if possible," says Benson. "Daniel Schlett, who recorded us, put a room mic up on the wall in front of a painting of my great grandmother's, so he could capture what it sounded like from the painting's point of view. I don't think the songs sound like they were recorded in a house in the woods, as with the Bon Iver record. But it fostered a certain intimacy, which can be hard to obtain in the studio, with everyone coming and going. All the songs came out of improvisations, as opposed to someone bringing a partially finished song to rehearsal, which is how we've written mostly in the past."
The band's home in Metuchen, New Jersey—home of "the guy who played Stiles in Teen Wolf!" Benson informs me—gives them an unaffected view of the music world. They're not concerned with being hip, or in blazing trails. They're simply after a sound as good and genuine as they can make. Meanwhile, for the Graves' first-ever Portland-area show, they're playing one of the best gigs in town: Pickathon. "It's an honor, really," says Benson. "We're still shocked that we were asked. I've heard the food is amazing, and I've heard that 'it's small for a big festival,' which I like the sound of. The folks who organized it have been nothing but kind and professional toward us, which makes us feel great and we're not even there yet."
Roadside Graves play the Fir Meadows Stage on Saturday at 5:15 pm and the Galaxy Barn on Sunday at 5:30 pm.