Birds and Basil: A musical meal

November 22, 2018 GMT

There’s a cornucopia of melodic treats for Rochester music fans to be grateful for this Thanksgiving weekend. Two well-loved bands, Local Sports and Six Mile Grove, are throwing album release shindigs this Saturday. Local Sports will commandeer the second floor of Kathy’s Pub to release their punk-inspired album, “Basil Bouquet.” They’ll split the bill with Author and Dude Corea.

Six Mile Grove will release their Americana-minded “Million Birds” at a debut concert in the Castle Community’s third-floor venue. The party will include special guest Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts. With both Birds and Basil in the mix, this two-course musical meal will certainly have Thanksgiving flavor.

Million Birds

Six Mile Grove surpassed its own distance by completing “Million Birds,” its seventh milestone album. From 2004 to 2014, the band spent time backing Bob Wootton – Johnny Cash’s long-time guitarist. Sadly, Wootton passed away last year, but this is what he had to say about Six Mile Grove: “There’s nothing fancy about them, and they don’t try to be something they’re not.”

Wootton had it right. For 20 years, the members of Six Mile Grove have stayed true to their idea of what good music should be by remaining self-produced, self-managed, and self-recorded. They’ve managed to make it work while holding down jobs and raising families. That kind of persistence pays off with a sound that has matured but not grown stale.

From songs centered on the hard work of relationships that “stick together” and “make it work” to others that lament the false wisdom of commonplace sayings, the record features Brandon Sampson’s forlorn vocals in a way that evokes authenticity. The tight vocal harmonies on songs like “Early Morning Rain” are haunting, but the dirty, driving groove of “Shot in the Arm” is definitely corporeal.

Barry Nelson’s organ riffs, Dezi Wallace’s thumping bass and Brian Sampson’s tasteful drumming make it hard to pick a favorite song from the eleven-track album, but one cut that I can’t get out of my head is “Damned If I Do.” The simple beauty of its descending line and John Wheeler’s pedal steel accents settle sensuously in the ear.

Basil Bouquet

For their second turn at bat, Local Sports have hit it out of the park and into fast-moving traffic. Listening to “Basil Bouquet” feels like you’ve ridden a bike no-handed off a cliff but haven’t yet crashed to the ground. The eight-track album seethes with sonic surliness and ceaseless speed.

“In some cultures, basil is put in the hands or mouths of the dead to allow for safe passage into the afterlife,” explains bassist and vocalist Josh Brundige while referring to the album’s title track about a car accident. As a whole, the album resonates with a carpe diem vibe that comes from raw vocals, hard-hitting drums, and wailing guitars with just the right touch of fuzzy distortion.

The band recorded at Rochester’s Carpet Booth Studios with Zach Zurn. Guitarist Jimmy Seechan remembers making music with Zurn in their 8th grade talent show, and guitarist Stephan Phan says the band’s fifteen-year history with Zurn, along with his professionalism, made the recording process very relaxed.

The record’s rattling dice cup intro to “Yung Dice,” and the fleeting anger in its thirty-nine second “A Million F#*%ing Diamonds” make it playfully bitter. One of my favorite tracks is “Grey Duck Never Goose.” Its lyrics roar in 4/4 sections that slide in and out of its more lethargic 6/8 segments.

Promising a great night supporting the local music scene, the band is proud to be able to share their new album for free with the $5 admission to the show. And you know the party will be good ’cause drummer Cody VanSickle predicts Kathy’s will run out of Hamm’s.