With each new batch of songs, The Grisly Hand draws upon its musical strengths and takes them to more compelling heights. Their 2013 release of Country Singles was met with widespread acclaim, making several album-of-the-year lists. The LP showed a progression in the band’s established country pop-driven style, along with breaking out of that mold by introducing listeners to more of their varied influences and putting an eagle-eye focus on songwriting. Two years later, the group is set to release its fourth studio album Flesh & Gold on Saturday, with a special release party at Knuckleheads Saloon.
“In the back of our minds, we always want to make our listeners and fans happy,” says vocalist Lauren Krum, “but even though this is a different type of album in some ways, I think we felt like people would come with us, so to speak.” While Country Singles honed in on the band’s songwriting abilities, Flesh & Gold takes that a step further, with a careful eye on composition and melodic arrangements. The LP is sprinkled with plenty of the catchy, vocally-driven hooks that fans are initially drawn to, but expands on those ideas.
An overarching example of this is in the vocal work of Krum and Jimmy Fitzner, who shine separately and as a unified voice throughout the album. The two deliver strong vocal performances that range from delicate to playful to refined to painfully earnest, augmented by the musical dynamics surrounding them. “Brand New Bruise” begins with a dolesome guitar and a soulful, contemplative vocal from Krum. As Matt Richey’s drums march in, the song propels itself into deeper emotional territory. Mike Stover’s intermittently sweeping, swelling steel guitar melodies and Fitzner’s vocal harmonies magnify Krum’s anguishing lyrics and bring the track to a sharp pinnacle.
These polished, poignant arrangements display a band that is taking full advantage of the talent and influences of its 6 members. Though most of the songs on Flesh & Gold were written by Fitzner, they seem to be crafted with each member’s musical sensibilities in mind. “Working out songs with people that are different than you is always cool,” mentions Krum. “I wouldn’t want to be in a group of people who all liked the same five bands—I think it really limits you.” These experienced players bring in elements of country, rock, punk and classic soul in their music, making for a unique, cohesive sound with striking dynamic shifts.
Perhaps the most powerful illustration of The Grisly Hand’s maturing sound is on the album’s swan song, “Regrets on Parting.” It takes the group completely out of the country/folk genre that they sometimes find themselves lumped into, with a jazzy R&B groove that soars on the shoulders of a three-piece horn section. The horns reinforce Krum and Fitzner’s gripping vocal melodies, while sparing, grungy guitar lines give the song a subtle rock ‘n roll edge.
Flesh & Gold will be released as the first installment of a double album, which is slated for a spring 2016 release. This 9-track LP will be available on CD and digital formats on Saturday.
Michelle Bacon is a musician and writer dedicated to the Kansas City music community. As editor of The Deli Magazine–Kansas City and staff member at Midwest Music Foundation, she advocates for and helps spotlight music in the area. She also plays withThe Philistines, Dolls on Fire and Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds. Her grandma is 101 years old and by far the coolest person she knows.