Josh McCaslin of Portland-based noir country act Roselit Bone tells me in L.A. it’s pretty normal to consider country, blues — and even Chicano — a huge part of the punk melting pot.
“Since moving to Oregon,” he adds, “people think it’s a novelty thing.”
Roselit Bone, a nine-piece band blending country, punk rock and ranchera music, returns to Eugene behind their 2017 release Blister Steel.
On the album McCaslin’s heavily reverb-affected tenor soars some place similar to Ryan Adams, with Roy Orbison-style operatic punctuation marks, Buddy Holly falsetto hiccups and Tom Waits melodrama. He sings over guitars, mandolins, accordions and horns.
One minute it’s a soundtrack to a spaghetti western, a lonely cowboy alone on a desert landscape. The next minute, as on album-track “Tie-Dye Cowboy,” it’s a straight-ahead hoedown for the queen of the rodeo, somewhere south of the border.
“Our music is pretty hard to describe,” McCaslin explains. “There’s a heavy western influence,” he adds, but there are also touches of legendary rockabilly innovator Duane Eddy. “There’s a desolation aspect to it, a loneliness.”
“Everything is pretty dark,” he describes. “Everything’s super sparse and maybe a little depressing. I do write in character a lot.” A lot of the character he embodies is drawn from real-life people.
McCaslin is a mixture of self taught and college educated musician. After moving to Oregon, “I got stuck out in the middle of the woods and studied,” he says. “All the songs, especially on Blisters, were arranged in my head before I brought them to the band.”
After leaving L.A., he finds the place inspires more of his work than he expected. “I think when you leave a place, you can appreciate it a little more even if you don’t want to live there anymore.”
Performing with Roselit Bone at Sam Bond’s Garage’s anniversary party is Eugene-based psych and surf rockers Granrojo. The party starts 9:30 pm Saturday, July 21, at Sam Bond’s $6, 21-plus. — Will Kennedy