Above image by Anna Selle Photography
Featured on their sophomore album “Heavy Days,” the original recording of “The Load” captures the exhilaration of Katy Guillen & the Girls’ live show. It chugs along with fervor and melodic refrains that catch like fire, allowing enough breathing room to highlight each member’s talents in fewer than four minutes.
“Remember What You Knew Before” marks the trio’s third release, giving the acoustic treatment to several of Guillen’s songs. Ten of the 11 tracks have appeared on The Girls’ first two albums and Guillen’s 2012 release with Go-Go Ray.
The updated version of “The Load” is one of the new album’s strongest offerings. Where its original arrangement brims with dynamic intensity, the revised interpretation puts raw emotional depth on full display.
The Bridge is excited to premiere the album’s lead single and music video, “The Load.”
Following in the footsteps of Delta blues greats like Robert Johnson and Elmore James, Guillen uses the resonator slide guitar to brilliant effect on “The Load” and throughout the album.
“When we played the King Biscuit Blues Festival in 2016, we were able to explore the Arkansas/Mississippi Delta region and found it inspiring and full of genuine musical energy,” Guillen said. “A lot of stripped-down blues was being played in the streets, particularly slide on a resonator guitar. It was moving to feel surrounded by it, and I thought to myself, ‘I need to learn how to play like that.’”
That experience compelled the band to dive into a fundamental pillar of the blues and a less conventional approach to recording. In a departure from past releases, The Girls spent four days tracking at Guillen’s home, with engineer/producer Lennon Bone.
“We wanted the album to have a comfortable yet playful vibe, which is partially why we decided to record the bulk of it at home,” Guillen said, noting that the band incorporated textures like hand claps and stomps to give the songs an organic feel — and as a nod to King Biscuit, the introduction to“The Load” was recorded on her front porch. “We wanted to experiment and play with different ideas, so we took a more open-ended approach and allowed the process to be more creative and in the moment.”
Rather than simply rehashing acoustic versions of familiar tunes, the recording and production process provided the songs with a new medium of expression. From sweeping touches of flamenco guitar to layered backing vocals and striking percussive patterns, “Remember What You Knew Before” permeates with each member’s personal imprint and the influences they’ve discovered as a band.
“Making this album has shown us that a song can be interpreted and expressed in many different ways,” Guillen said. “We’re all curious players, and we don’t want to stand still or stop learning.”
Join Katy Guillen & the Girls at the KC release party for “Remember What You Knew Before” on Saturday, Nov. 11 at The Foundation Event Space, with special guest Julia Haile. Tickets are available. If you can’t wait that long, they’ll be at CrossroadsKC Beer Fest this Saturday.
—Michelle Bacon writes about #kcmusic for 90.9 The Bridge, and plays drums and bass in bands. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @michelleobacon.