Deer Whistle – Stranded Somewhere Else EP

Deer Whistle
Stranded Somewhere Else EP

I stumbled across Deer Whistle while writing the somewhat regular Unappreciated Album of the Month column on a classic EP by the band Best Kissers in the World. Best Kissers frontman Gerald Collier and bassist Dave Swafford were playing in this new band along with newcomer Tom Nurse on drums. Deer Whistle isn’t like the Kissers, Swafford warned me when he sent the band’s new EP, and it definitely isn’t.
The picture inside the album shows two of the three band members wearing cowboy hats, and the artwork evokes images of the west. It’s clear that Collier and Swafford have moved away from the alternative power-pop of the Kissers in a more Western direction. For these songs would definitely fall into the Western-rock category. Even the song titles evoke images of the vast and empty west. But while you have to deal with some countrified picking and rather tepid percussion, it’s clear that the band is still talented and writes strong songs, making this an excellent find.
The opener, “Staring into the Sun,” has some fantastic bluegrass-inspired country-rock guitar that makes the song, even as Collier’s vocals sound a bit subdued. There are some short guitar solos here that really shine. My favorite track here, “Gone Away” is focused on more inspired rhythm and intricate guitarwork, but it’s really in the vocals – slightly echoed, layered during the chorus – that the song gets inspired. “Swirlin Inside the Eye” is a bit more up-tempo and rocking with some immaculate guitar, while “I Don’t Know” is about as country as the band gets. “Slummin” is a bit grungy, a bit more down-n-dirty rock, and it shows that Deer Whistle is most likely a band for the musicians to just have fun, although again the vocals help give the song a unique feel. There’s a hidden bonus track that’s also down-n-dirty rock-n-roll.
Normally, Western-infused rock isn’t really my thing. It makes me think of guys in cowboy hats playing to a rowdy and drunk bar crowd more than anything else, and this music is a far cry from the mid-90’s edgy alternative feel that the Best Kissers in the World had. But you can’t deny music by good musicians, and both Collier and Swafford have a lot of talent as evident here as with the Kissers. Still a very strong songwriter after several solo albums, Collier lends his touch to these songs and makes them shine. So if you are willing to give the hint of a twang and the guitar picking a chance, you can’t do much better than this.