It's always shocking to see your young nieces and nephews again after a few years; their growth can be so striking. The same is true of Deep Chatham. A string trio at the time of their 2011 debut, Words From the Well, they leap forward with the follow-up, Flood. Both albums are driven by percolating melodies and a warmly energetic Americana sound, but Flood is a significantly more nuanced effort.
The addition of keyboard and accordion player Trevor Grassi opens up things dramatically. The tracks featuring Grassi are some of the album's most affecting, evoking the forlorn and damned vibe of Murder By Death. Chief among these are the pretty ne'er-do-well ballad "Tend to Lose" and the shadowy roots-noir of "Run Rabbit," with its elegant but understated piano bridge.
But it's not just piano bringing new flavor. Grassi's accordion also keys the foot-tapping gypsy folk gem "The Hunt." The band's usual dour, wind-in-its-face-and-uphill country-folk is more effective played alongside these upbeat tracks, gaining a certain gravitas. Grassi's accordion also adds tantalizing flavor to the shuffling folk-blues "Carnival" and the dreamy folk tune "Golden Lies."
In general, Deep Chatham's musicianship has increased an entire level on Flood. More harmonies (surprisingly absent here) and a few more indelible melodies ("Tend to Lose" is the only immediate earworm) could push the band past welterweight status. Considering how they've graduated into a very good band, that's a secondary quibble.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Twin upgrades."