Arts and Entertainment

Thoughts on Tumbledown's debut full-length | Joker's Peace

Tumbledown cover art from the famed Oliver Peck. - Courtesy graphic
Tumbledown cover art from the famed Oliver Peck.
— image credit: Courtesy graphic

I sat down to write about this album a good 10 times over the past week, but it never quite felt right until I was at home with a beer in hand. And it's not just because all writers are drunks, not some schtick, or means of bearing the unbearable. There's just something about the taste of a good beer that fits right in with the texture of Mike Herrera's Tumbledown.

Then, of course, there's the first song — "Let's Drink" — a carousing, though somber sort of anthem for drinking 'til you fall down.

Then, there's the drinkin' and fightin' in song 7.

And Jon Snodgrass' slurred backups on song 10.

Then, there's the sitting alone at the bar, drinkin' for two. Drinkin’ cause there’s nothing else to do. Because you got a plan that just can’t lose —drinkin' all the booze at the Kitsap County Fair.

It's an appropriate album to come out of a place like Bremerton.

Though a lot of Tumbledown's songs seem to have come from the road, Bremerton's somewhat of a tumbledown in itself. It's where the dudes all live, where the album was born, recorded and produced — at Herrera's Monkey Trench Studios, an old two-story house-turned-pro studio in the heart of the city.

I remember when I first heard word of the MxPx front man's country side project with the guys from Rocky Point All Stars, I half expected Herrera to slap a whiskey-drenched western twang on top of his distinct vox. However, while surely whiskey-flavored, he throws down his signature MxPx-ish straight-ahead storytelling style — in both singing and songwriting. Maybe a bit more on the storytelling than with MxPx, or maybe just different kinds of stories. Sounds more like campfire.

ITunes lists the album in its country genre, but it's more than a country record.

It's rockabilly-ish. Punky. Poppy. Bluesy. Americana. Pop-punk-abilly, I call it.

It's a sound forged from the influence of old-school American songwriters like Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and a life spent on the road, traveling in a punk rock band.

“What it sounds like depends on who you are,” Herrera said.

Different than a country band, different than a punk band, different than a rockabilly or a blues band, Tumbledown is somewhere in between it all — "somewhere in the ether," Herrera noted.

The debut album (out May 19 in stores and online) has flashes of everything from pop punk to surf rock to blues guitar, barbershop harmonies to honky tonk in the cadence. I think I even heard a mandolin waltz in there.

There's a whole host of songs: drinking songs, quit your job songs, relationship songs, loathing the rain songs, songs from the road, songs of regret, songs of philosophy and growing old all mixed in with a few fine stories, like the "Butcher of San Antone" about an assassin vigilante with a stiletto that separates the meat from the bone.

It's that storytelling, Herrera said, which led him to the country vein.

"It's all about being organic and real," he said. "Coming from a place that's true to who we are."

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