Still hot from what seemed like endless touring in support of their breakthrough album D, White Denim is not showing any signs of slowing down soon. This week, Downtown Records released the band’s highly anticipated Corsicana Lemonade.
From the blazing entrance guitar riff that kicks off “At Night In Dreams” to the layering harmonies on “A Place To Start” which closes the album out, the group’s fifth studio album delivers exactly what their fans are wanting. Not only is Corsicana Lemonade a step up in White Denim’s songwriting abilities, it presents a more matured and refined approach to their dense, yet discerning brand of Rock and Roll.
Serendipity has played a huge part in shaping White Denim’s path to recording Corsicana Lemonade, starting all the way back with the initially supporting tour of D. As the group was en route from Texas to perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival’s Gorge Amphitheatre, they were notified that vocalist/guitarist James Petralli’s home in Austin was robbed. Nevertheless, White Denim pressed on and made it to Sasquatch, only to perform an unlikely set that would help shape their future to come. While the crowd was sparse for the oft dreaded daytime festival slot, Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) caught the performance from the side stage. Story would have it that Jeff introduced himself and congratulated them on their well-played set and striking up conversation. “Maybe he just got what we were trying to do,” Petralli has stated about the dialogue that day. A few months later, Tweedy invited White Denim to open for Wilco’s West Coast Winter 2012 tour. I think it’s safe to say that Jeff Tweedy indeed understood what White Denim was doing.
In the early months of 2013, Jeff Tweedy called the group again, this time to inform them that there were four open days of studio time at the famed Loft in Chicago. Those four days marked the beginnings of Corsicana Lemonade and the group laid the framework to “A Place To Start” and “Distant Relative Salute” before heading back to Texas. Once back in Austin, White Denim fashioned a recording studio in a rented house overlooking Lake Travis. Finally, they tapped local producer Jim Vollentine (Spoon, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) to help wrap up the album.
Here are a couple of quotes from Chase Hoffberger’s article in the Austin Chronicle on how this move helped elevate the quality of the album-to-be:
“With expectations outside of the group, and within the group, it became too much for Josh Block [ed.: drummer, who produced the band's existing catalogue] to be the musician he needs to be in addition to the engineer that all these business people expect him to be.” Petralli continues, “I love Josh’s production, and if I had my way, we’d do every record the way we did Last Day of Summer, Fits, and Explosion. But it was just a little much for him. If we’re going to get somebody, we might as well get somebody who’s a professional and knows how to be that guy.”
Vollentine played no part in scripting the songs, which sound like a mixture of Thin Lizzy (“Corsicana Lemonade”), Steely Dan (“Come Back”), and Paul McCartney’s Ram (both “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” pull directly from that LP’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why”), but he did enforce its welcome sheen. Along with Petralli’s condensed songwriting — all the songs track in at less than 4:40, with one exception, “Cheer Up,” which drifts into a sleepy jam — Vollentine’s contributions make Corsicana Lemonade the most accessible, fulfilling album White Denim has ever made.
In a world of Alternative Rock inundated by bland over-recycled drum beats and synth lines obscuring melodies, White Denim are writing music that are well beyond these constraints. To borrow a sports catch-phrase, “they are playing in a completely different league.” Check out the new album and see for yourself!