"I was surprised to hear so much sound coming from just two guys"
- some guy in the audience
The Stillhouse Poets are a roots duo from Regina, Saskatchewan, the heart of the Canadian prairies. Their influences are drawn deep from the musical well waters of the Mississippi Delta and the Appalachian mountains. With songs about blood & dusty bibles, black crows & barbed wire, there's a "prairie gothic" theme that runs through the music.
Thursday, February 27th
part of The Mid-Winter Blues Festival
"It's folk music with some dirt on it"
- Brent Nielsen
They've released their second album titled “Hangin’ Crows”. Sonically, it’s not much different from the warm rustic vibe of their self-titled debut.
“We hit fertile ground on our first record and felt there was a lot more there”, says guitarist Brent Nielsen, “we decided to keep digging”. He did add a metal body resonator guitar to his musical pallet though, “It gives a couple of songs the junkyard feel we were missing”.
The 10 song set includes 7 originals written by the duo. Kirk Hextall handles the bulk of the lead vocals. “We’re catch and release songwriters”, he says “some weren’t good enough so we threw them back”. The ones that did make the cut explore some familiar Stillhouse Poets territory.
“Sweet Release” finds the central character looking for redemption in dark alleyways.
The Poets even took a shot at writing a call and response field holler. “If There’s A Way” could be sung by a chain gang while digging a ditch. The song includes the line from which the album got it’s title. “Hayman’s out now hangin’ crows”. Some people still hang dead crows around their property to keep the live ones from congregating and destroying their crop.
To round out the album, 3 cover songs were added to the 7 originals.
"A guy like Tom Waits has so many great songs you’d think it would be hard to pick just one”, Hextall says, “it turns out the first one we tried (Gun Street Girl) fit perfectly so we kept it”.
“You Gotta Move” is taken from the slave hymnals. It’s about getting ready for freedom, whether through escape, emancipation or death. The rootsy gospel track has been recorded by many artists including Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. The Poets got their version from a Mississippi Fred McDowell record.
Nielsen takes over the lead vocal for the Leadbelly classic “Bring Me Lil‘ Water Sylvie”. Hextall is more than happy to step aside, “Brent sings that song better than I do ... I love the way he does it so I’m glad we included it on the album”.
All 10 tracks are given a stripped down treatment. There’s no lipstick or rouge, just foot stompin’ grit. It’s backwoods harmony with a kick drum heart.
“You guys have a really cool sound”.
- their waitress