Peaks and Valleys–The Sapwoods

                                      Cover art by Dan Peterson.

Peaks and Valleys, the new record by the Sapwoods is likely one of the best new records you’ll hear this year.  Anchored by singer-songwriter Justin Swafford and guitarist David Suchan, the Sapwoods went through a bit of turnover after 2012’s Electric Glowbefore the lineup stabilized with Miranda Peyton on keys, Brian Speer on bass and Derrick Cook on drums.

The opener, “Relax, Be Real, Be Yourself” is a hard-charging Tom Petty-style number that sets the table lyrically, as other titles include “Let It Go,” “It’s Alright, Close Your Eyes”.  “Two Wounded Soldiers” and “Steady on the Breaks” also fall into the it’s-gonna-be-alright category.  Lyrics can be hard to decipher (they’re available on Bandcamp), but tend to be kind of oblique anyway.  “Leopard tongue speaks it’s alright” for instance.

The band hits quite a few different stylistic notes, from the opening rocker to the light reggae lilt of “Are You Lightning?” to the sprightly but melancholy breakup song “Serve You Right” to the spacy “Perdition”.  “Back To You” would fit right into one of the old Nuggets compilations.  That said, Swafford’s vocals pretty often suggest Tom Petty, with a hint of Jeff Tweedy.  “Drifters” even borrows some of the rhythms’s of Petty’s “Hometown Blues.”

                                      Photo by Sean Adams-Hiett.

Peaks and Valleys is absolutely worth your attention.  You can stream it on ReverbNation or Bandcamp, where it’s for sale.  You can also connect via their YouTube channel or FaceBook.  Catch them a one of their upcoming shows, and you can buy a physical CD.

–John Hiett

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