Teague Alexy: Circuit Sessions

Teague Alexy has been playing in the Twin Ports for a number of years both as a solo musician and with his brother, Ian, as The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. He’s released a few albums and has even published a book of folk tales. While I’ve thought that his past endeavors have been well done, I think he’s outdone himself with this arrangement of songs titled “The Circuit Sessions.”

While the songs on this EP length album stand on their own, Alexy got some help and the results are pretty stunning. Bringing in Eric Pollard of Actual Wolf as a multi-instrumentalist, Steve Garrington of Low on bass and keys, and Jake Hanson on additional guitars certainly added to these recordings. If that weren’t enough, having the likes of Jake Larson and Erik Koskinen handling the sound engineering at Sacred Heart Studios as well as Clubhouse Studio in Duluth, and Real-Phonic Studios in Minneapolis sealed the deal for a solid album.

It’s established that this album features an all-star line up of musicians and sound engineers, but you don’t need to listen to mainstream radio for long to realize that a polished piece of crap is still a piece of crap no matter how great the engineer and studio are. Alexy delivers some beautiful and seemingly timeless songs on this. I can’t consider this a folk album, it has some rock elements and other genres that hold a timelessness that border on artists like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and certain Beach Boys songs. In other words, the song-writing would make these songs good even if Alexy just played them solo. Of course going all out certainly didn’t hurt the final outcome.

The honesty, story-telling, and overall songwriting shines from the beginning with the track “Boardwalk Anthem.” The song brings the listener to the Jersey Shore with an uptempo rock song. While the song is certainly fun to listen to, there’s a bit of rough and tumble edge to it, “it’s not like I haven’t been pushed around, a punch away from being knocked out before, on the summer’s point (?) of the Jersey Shore.” Later, Alexy sings “you better keep to yourself, they just want to hear boardwalk anthems.” The song tells a short story of what I’m guessing is Alexy’s start to music by busking for tourists, but also dealing with everything from being interested in cute girls, to drugs, to moving on.

The next song, “Don’t Go,” switches over to a more of a reggae or rocksteady feel similar to a feel of the band The Slackers. For those who really like reggae and dub music, there’s a bonus dub remix of this song at the end of the album to be enjoyed.
Lyrically, I think “The Raggedy Hat of John Henry” is certainly well put together. “As sure as mama cried the day John Lennon died, as sure as John Henry was a steel driving man,” sings Alexy in this more folky song. He weaves together a fabric of words that is truly poetry with this track.
As far as production goes, the fun thing about this album is to try to figure out what parts were recorded where. The song “Sweet Salvation” swims with a lot of melodic layers that span out into airy head room. I’m guessing parts of the song were tracked at Sacred Heart because there are vocals in the background that shimmer way off in the distance where they linger in the mix just enough to be present yet aren’t fully defined. Of course there are plenty of reverbs and other effects that could possibly do this, but it’s something I’ve heard from other recordings done at Sacred Heart. Certain music is better than others for the old and spacious church and there are indeed certain aspects to this album where recording there seems fitting.

Overall, I’d recommend that any music lover who is interested in local music pick this album up. It’s difficult to decide to say what this album is or isn’t. For example, it isn’t a bunch of tired out Americana songs. It’s not even really folk. It isn’t indie rock, although I can’t say it’s not somehow a rock album. It doesn’t have any banjo on it, but there’s certainly some slide guitar. One wouldn’t really consider this album experimental, but if you listen close enough, there are some cool tricks happening. Alexy found a lot of things that are right and then made him his own and the backing talent drove it through for something both unique but somehow easily accessible. I guess in the end, it can be called great song-writing.

Teague Alexy will be officially releasing Circuit Sessions at Red Herring Lounge on Saturday with the Argentine/Minnesotan duo Axtell and Mama’s Stolen Horses opening.