In the five years since The Deslondes last put out a record, both Sam Doores and Riley Downing have managed to release solo albums – both solid offerings – but it’s the music the comes out of the two working alongside each other along with Dan Cutler, Cameron Snyder, and John James Tourville that really shines. On Ways & Means, the Louisiana-based band’s third effort, they finally coalesce behind their strongest, most eclectic sound yet, setting the bar where all future records will be judged.
They produced this one once again with their longtime collaborator Andrija Tokic and have clearly landed on a comfortable mix of Americana, folk and decent dose of Leon Russell-inspired Swamp funk. One of the big appeals of The Deslondes is the fact that between Doores and Riley they have two remarkable singers that each have a distinct sound and feel. Doores has a smooth, reassuring voice, (played to perfection on songs like “Howl At The Moon” and “Wild Eden”). In contrast, Downing’s whiskey hoarse vocals (Kris Kristofferson is the closest comparable reference) – heard on songs like “South Dakota Wild One” and “Home Again” – are unmistakable and frame the songs’ tone like no one ever could. You can’t imagine a track like the trippy “Standing Still” being sung by anyone else but Downing and coming out this satisfying.
“The album title reminds me of being young, getting into the music business, going through everything and coming out of it,” said Downing recently. “We’re taking a look right, left, and back at ourselves.” And the five-year break between albums certainly gave the band time to exercise some solo demons, stake out new territory musically, and realize exactly how much stronger they are as a unit. Not to take anything away from how strong both Doores’ and Downing’s latest solo outings were, but the band sounds remarkably inspired on Ways & Means.