Over their 15-year career, Head for The Hills has developed a vastly wider palette of sonic textures. Dorm room jam sessions have turned into a decade-plus on the road — from humble coffee shops to theaters, festivals, roadhouses and clubs all across the country. Over time those sounds and influences have crept more and more into the bluegrass beginnings of the band, morphing into the seasoned eclecticism of Say Your Mind.
The EP’s first two tracks, in fact, are an expected continuation of that arc — tight bluegrass-based tracks that have been accented with drums and pedal steel.
But Say Your Mind’s third song “I am the Problem” takes the group’s foundational sound and flips it on its end. Midway through the song, Joe Lessard launches into a crescendoing smooth rap that is an incredibly exciting juxtaposition to their earlier catalog. The rap stops before heading back into the song’s chorus which echoes a heightened awareness in the current era. “I am the problem, you are the cure/If this is progress, I ain’t so sure/Take my seat at the table, take my foot out the door/My taking advantage has taken its toll/I took you for granted and I just can’t take anymore.”
The group said Say Your Mind’s material reflects both the turbulent social rhythms of our current era and more timeless moments of joy, growth, and change — think #MeToo, the current body politic and inequality, but also relationships, fatherhood and growing up.
The trio added a huge crew of guest musicians to help them develop this new sound. From Kim Dawson’s [Matador! Soul Sounds, Pimps of Joytime] soaring soul vocals at the end of “I am The Problem” to the percussion added throughout the EP by Elephant Revival’s Darren Garvey to the ample horn section arranged by Paul Maley, Say Your Mind seems as much a community art project as it does one band’s recording.
The EP closes with “Can’t Stay This Way For Long,” a funky, soulful shuffle which features copious horns and seems to sign off with a declaration that despite 15 years together, when it comes to genre-bending, Head for The Hills is just starting to experiment with the boundaries they can push, and how far they can flex them.
eTown Hall | March 22