The musicians’ version of the phrase “make hay while the sun shines” is “record music while the microphones are set up.” A record or CD in your collection that’s not being heard is just a piece of plastic taking up space, and recording equipment set up in a studio, a basement or a basement studio that’s not documenting and preserving audio for future generations to hear is just taking up space.
Local musician Erik Nordstrom, best known as the guitar player and vocalist in both Lawn Chair Kings and Farmington Hill, is one of those dudes who always has a to-do list, multiple irons in the fire and recording equipment at the ready in his home studio. Back in fall 2018, he was helping another local musician with a recording project and he took advantage of the set-up gear then to record his own solo release, the result being “Songs from Underground,” a seven-song cut that’s classic Nordstrom – a record that lies somewhere between alternative country and indie rock with hints of cow-punk.
“While everything was set up with mics and such, I thought, ‘Well, I have some new songs, I should actually record myself,’” he said. “So I started recording the seven songs with acoustic guitar and a click-track, I just had my own voice and guitar, and then I got other people to join the party.”
Those other people include some familiar names and faces in Nordstrom’s musical world, including drummer Pat Dressen and bass player Dan Leek, who are Nordstrom’s band mates in The Lawn Chair Kings; former Lawn Chair Kings banjo player Hap Purcell and guitar player Dale X Allen from Genuine Cowhide.
“I consider it a solo project because I started it on my own,” Nordstrom said. “The initial tracks were acoustic guitar and vocals. I later asked Dan, Patrick, Hap and Dale to add further instrumentation.”
Find Nordstrom at a festival and he’ll likely be part of a communal jam, as he’s always looking to make music with anyone willing to play.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity to be more collaborative with other musicians. I hope to keep doing this kind of thing,” he said. “This was a little bit of a fluke honestly, I just had seven songs, recorded them and got a CD out of it.”
“Fluke” is selling the record short: It’s as solid of a release as anything else dropped in the roots world this year. Cuts like “Perfect Answer” showcase Nordstrom’s ability to drop a tender twangy ballad; “Backseat” has a punky, Ramones-influenced punch; and “Sweet Louise,” with tasty, nitro-twang fills from Allen is a blast of psychedelic Americana. The record is a perfect addition to a catalog from a dude who has hundreds of songs under his belt that walk a line between classic country and early punk rock.
Perhaps this is the first of many solo ventures from Nordstrom.
“David Allan Coe said that he knew how to write the perfect country and western song, but I’m not sure I know the exact formula,” Nordstrom said.
However, he does know his way around a studio, and he’s trying to keep it DIY enough to release more records.
“Part of my goal just from an equipment and space standpoint is I’m trying to simplify my recording set up so I can do more of this on the fly,” Nordstrom said.
“Songs From Underground” is available for purchase from the art vending machines found around Mancos, as well as the local music section in Studio & in Durango.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.