Rapidly becoming one of my favourite bands, These United States stopped by The Old Chapel at the end of a successful UK tour that included three performances at Glastonbury.
With an immense songcraft, and a remarkable ability to reinvent their own songs (just listen to So High So Low, from the first album reworked here), the new material previewed in the session has a nailed on Basement Tapes/ Highway 61 Revisited feel. (In a good way. It would be easy to throw that out as a comparison, based on sound alone, but the songs stand the comparison easily.)
Here's what I wrote about their first album, A Picture of The Three Of Us At the Gate To The Garden Of Eden:
With the new intelligence raging through American popular folk/ Americana/ rock, the congestion among bands that build rock into their psych-folky harmonies is hard to penetrate. However, These United States may just be strong enough to break through it all - lead man Jesse Elliott shows a Paul Simon knack for a melody and a sense of song dynamics that can leave you breathless. Songs like First Sight, or The Business, come across like early 70s classics from the bleeding edge of 2008. Elliott's voice recalls M Ward's - well, it's actually a dead ringer - but the music is a lot more varied; there's some Andrew Bird in there, surely. Led by Elliott and his friend David Strackany, These United States drafted in more than 30 Washington, DC and Midwest-based musicians, and deployed them sparely and wonderfully across the record. In places a fragile thing, in others as solid as metal, the imagination behind A Picture can seem fevered - you get to the end of it like you get to the end of a good modern art gallery - still slightly puzzled, but in no doubt that you now see things differently.
Enjoy these videos of this incarnation of These United States: main man Jesse Elliott (left), Mark Charles (of Vandaveer; middle) and J. Tom Hnatow (right). If you click on the titles, you'll go to YouTube, where you've the option to watch in higher quality (sound and video). Look for some songs from Vandaveer soon.