Growing up on punk bands, I was initially wary of artists that only used their name or used their name plus the word band. (“How uncreative,” I thought. “They don’t even pick a band name.”) Once I fell in love with Damien Jurado, the initial fear began to drop off. I now understand the differences between the three: a named band is an ostensibly equal effort between all players, a “my name band” very clearly spotlights one person but has valuable contributions from other band members that can’t be easily replaced, and a solo artist’s band has largely interchangable instrumentalists. Of course, there are exceptions (The Silver Jews and The Mountain Goats come to mind), but in a perfect world, that’s how it would roll.
The Andrew Luttrell Band is one of those middle type of bands. Luttrell has picked himself out a pretty excellent group, as the unit throws down a tight amalgam of frantic alt-country and Hendrix-esque psychedelia on Paint by Numbers. The 6:30 of opener “Landscape Plains” establishes the sound well: a wide-open, desert-country intro gives way into a traditional country rhythm section–with a Luttrell’s winding guitar solo on top of it. Luttrell’s vision of country is slightly different than the rest of ours, and that’s to listeners’ good. “Sara Sota” and “Sister Goes Bad” are ominous constructions that split the difference between grim country and ripping psych, and they register as some of the most memorable tunes on the album.
Luttrell’s inspired vocal performances help; he can sneer with the best of them, and that only exacerbates the edge inherent in these tunes. “Draggin’ That Line” pushes over into full-on psych mode, but Luttrell’s matter-of-fact, incisive vocal delivery reins in the instrumental enthusiasm. His earnest performances aren’t quite as compelling, but “Landscape Plains” and “Three’s a Crowd” both are improved by passionate but non-angry vox. Ballad mode is out of Luttrell’s vocal comfort zone, though, making “Blink” one of the few low notes on the album.
The Andrew Luttrell Band covers a lot of ground in 10 songs, going from traditional country (“Thursday Morning Two Forty Five”) to glint-in-his-eye alt-country (“Sara Sota”) to full-on psych (“Draggin’ That Line”) to weird sonic interludes (“Abstract Recessionism”) and more. It’s a fun ride, made especially so by the tunes where the band just nails the space between psych and country that few have memorably explored recently. Adventurous listeners, take heed.