Port Townsend’s own Brother Townsend is getting down to business with the release of their new line-up’s first full-length album, “All the King’s Ashes,” with a release …
Port Townsend’s own Brother Townsend is getting down to business with the release of their new line-up’s first full-length album, “All the King’s Ashes,” with a release party scheduled for Friday, Nov. 25 at the Uptown Pub.
“There’s some fun stuff, but I really want to create an atmosphere that allows for people to think deeply about themselves and search their own humanity,” said Brett Townsend, founder and frontman for the ensemble.
“I really do want to see this as something of a service,” he added. “Almost like a church service even, but there’s no dogma. There’s no answer.”
This is the second incarnation of the band that bares his and the town he grew up in’s name.
He and lead guitarist Billy Winters have been playing together from the start in 2014, but the facts of life, marriages, and deaths, shook the original members apart.
During the pandemic, Townsend began putting pieces back together.
In the last year they’ve added Kristina Ziese to harmonize her female vocals with Townsend’s, and more recently, Andrew Rudd has joined on drums.
“His chops are nice and tight and he seems to get what I and we are trying to do with these songs. Which I think is kinda unique,” Townsend said. “We’re trying to entertain, but definitely trying to provoke some deep thought.”
“Art should be provocative, but provocative toward what? With some kind of intentionality behind it. Anyway, that’s my intention.”
This search for something more below the surface can be traced to Townsend’s childhood which was spent steeped in religion.
“I grew up in the church and started playing music in church. I lived in these communes, which is a whole other huge thing, but we literally referred to all adult males as ‘brother.’”
While they’ve tried different names, the moniker of Brother Townsend seems here to stay.
“People wonder sometimes about the name of the band,” Townsend said. “We toured around with other names and stuff, and it’s just like, it’s just Brother Townsend. That’s what it’s settled on because, A; we’re from Port Townsend. It works. My last name is Townsend.”
“But what we’re doing now is so much bigger and more beautiful than what I could do on my own.”
With that said, Townsend’s voice is still what sets the tone. Moving between valleys deep with honey, to the rasping branches of winter forests reaching toward Tom Waits, Townsend’s pipes echo mournfully touched with the brightness of Ziese’s backing.
“I like to think it’s working class music,” Townsend said. “It’s Americana. It’s country, rock, folk, blues.”
Lead guitarist Winter’s mastery of his instrument, however, takes it up a notch.
“Sometimes it edges into psychedelia, or if you really let yourself go there it can be really transcendent,” Townsend said.
“But hopefully it’s just familiar.”
The songs do have a feel of home, a sense of turning back to what’s been lost to save some of what mattered, at least for a moment. Without falling into sentimentality, they reach into the heart of things.
“I’m trying to write what’s honest to me. I’m a working-class guy,” Townsend said.
He and the band have been working hard on this album for the better part of a year, he said.
“It’s a mix of new and old. I’d say mostly more mature songs,” he added.
“When I write a song, I like to think they kind of marinade. They kind of become what they finally are or maybe they never finish developing which is kind of like us I think.”
They’ll be playing the album in full at the release party at the Uptown Pub after George Yoder opens the show.
The band will also give out free download cards for audience members; CDs are still in the process as well as the possibility of vinyl copies.
“We’re going to do a little fundraising thing for vinyl. I know a lot of people want vinyl,” Townsend said.
That retro medium with its warm tones seems well suited to the band’s rhythms, which would also help capture the fidelity of all the fine-tuning they’ve done.
“I have certainly, in recording this, hoped for people to listen closely because there’s a lot of ear candy,” Townsend said.
“I’ve made many attempts to record things, and this is the first that I’ve taken the time to go back and make everything right so that now I don’t feel like I have to make any apologies for it.”
His sense of accomplishment in the work is clear.
“I challenge you to say it’s not great — whether you love the style or not,” Townsend said.