Whole Year Inn
What ever happened to the Double Album? The White Album, Exile on Main St., London Calling, Blonde on Blonde, Electric Ladyland, etc. It's back. 2 CD's packed with 25 songs from this talented, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter from Olympia, Washington. Strong songs, catchy melodies and inventive structures are held together by stories with quirky observations and groovy downhome anti-heroes. With comparisons to Ray Davies, Robbie Robertson, Lowell George, and even Bob Dylan this CD belongs in your collection. June isn't always the best weather in the Northwest; however, on a rather pleasant evening in 2009 the phone rang. Having just finished listening to latest lukewarm track of a Seattle folk/rock band that will remain unnamed, I was frankly ready for the machine gun monologue from Olympia by a man introducing himself as Cozy Thomason. To cut to the chase, I was invited to observe a Patrick Storedahl recording session for his new project entitled The Whole Year Inn...with the assurance that I was specifically requested by Patrick to attend, the objective was to compose an eyewitness account of the proceedings for a premier Seattle publication. I should have known that the request by Patrick was actually false. After arriving and making my identity clear, along with mentioning the phone call I'd received, all four of the players (guitarist David Broyles, drummer Maria Joyner, bassist/engineer Peter Jansen, and vocalist/pianist Storedahl) rolled their eyes and war was declared in my direction. I attended three other sessions, which mostly consisted of a belligerent dialog directed at me...Storedahl even wrote a song on the spot directed at me and they recorded it that night. With the raw material I collected, I managed to hammer out two thousand words only to hear that the aforementioned Seattle mag had folded. So, it came as a surprise that more than a year later I was again contacted by Mr. Thomason requesting that I write liner notes. After two stiff drinks I put aside my rancor and gave The Whole Year Inn a listen. Storedahl's first release, Ink Block Fingerprint was full of quirky lyrics, strong songs, and lush sounds, but except for a few guest players the project was mostly done with overdubs by Storedahl and Jansen. The Whole Year Inn is a band: laying down basic tracks together...sitting in a room eye to eye. Consisting of twenty-five songs broken into two discs and set up into sides like a true double album, this latest effort still contains the quirky lyrics and strong music that you've come to expect from Patrick; however, in this writer's opinion, there is also an element that is more organic. Side one is basically a rock and roll record with some elements of 60's and 70's pop. The Whole Year Inn opens with some studio chatter and counting before kicking into The Dumbest Thing I Never Did #73 or #56, a rocker with a title that pays homage to Dylan's Rainy Day Women; and ends with what could be Admiral Halsey's dark and shady cousin, and one of the strangest songs I've ever heard ...Molly, Me, and the Man from Tallahassee. Storedahl says, "Molly is a pandiatonic theme and variations with a retrograde double binary coda about my first dog." That's the kind of crap I was getting from these people. Sandwiched between Dumbest Thing and Molly are two upbeat numbers: the toe tapping, power pop of Astronaut and the Bolanesque first single Roll Over with it's beaucoup bass and psycho-imagery; and two slower tunes: the acidic waltz, Carpet might be the harshest song I've heard since Elvis Costello's I Want You and the dreamy and beautiful When You Die. Carpet is so intoxicating I played it four times in a row before continuing the rest of the album. With it's catchy, sing-along melodies and word-fest couplets that will leave you thinking for days, one could argue that this opening side is a fan's record. But, with it's meter and key changes, interesting sounds, inventive forms, and guitar solos it is a musician's record too. Speaking of guitar solos, each one seems to reference a different player from Peter Jansen conjuring up Roger McGuinn's twelve-string sound in The Dumbest Thing, to David Broyles' Joe Perry-like prowess in Roll Over and George Harrison's sweetness and emotion in Carpet, to Storedahl's Robbie Robertson-esque solo in Molly, Me, and the Man from Tallahassee. With an AM radio voice and drum loops, the alternative rock sounding Girlfriend starts side two and ushers in an even more eclectic group of songs than side one. By the time the last piano notes fade from the beautiful and tragic Georgia's Gone to Spain we've been introduced to a handful of quirky anti-heroes that are intertwined through stories about deceit, lost innocence, suburban boredom, and friendship. We've met a shady tugboat captain accused of murder, some lifelong friends, a fetish-riddled socialite, a tragic lover, and a bored couple with questionable dancing skills; all of whom seem like we already know them. From the beautiful, but disturbing drone of Spoons, to the new wave sounding songs Fireplace and Bucky Diddle's Plaid Slip-On Shoes, to the Abbey Road type melody of Downtown Doctor Darcy, Mrs. Chapman's Daughter, and Andy Rattlesnaked a Laggard this side is truly the most ambitious and perhaps the most satisfying on the record. Back to Bucky Diddle's Plaid Slip-On Shoes for a moment...this is the song Storedahl penned on the spot during one of my interviews; I swear it took him less than five minutes. Though it contains my name and makes fun of my shoes it isn't really about me. It sounds like a new wave song, but the story could have been written by Dylan for The Basement Tapes. Anti-hero Bucky is a shady river tug captain who is accused, but found innocent in the death of Molly. The town displays Molly's body in a glass freezer with her hands bound and flowers in her hair. It's unclear if Bucky was actually guilty or if Storedahl actually knew a captain like this. Psychotic imagery is spurted out in less than two minutes with mention of pale, dead horses, geoducks, eggs and spam, and Mrs. Chapman makes an appearance too. Along with Bucky; Fireplace, Spoons, Doctor Darcy, Mrs. Chapman, and Andy also sound like the crazy backwoods stories of The Basement Tapes, but except for Mrs. Chapman none of them sound like the music by Dylan and The Band. Disc 2: From the get go when Flatfoot Boogie slides in, through the funky Gotta Find a Way Back Home and the almost sinister (I Can't) Laugh Like That, to the end of Be There Soon, side three is a flashback to some 70's goodtime rock and roll in the spirit of Little Feat. There is plenty of Lowell George inspired slide guitar, along with funky-country grooves. Some of the characters from side one and two spill into these songs including Georgia, Bucky, and Cali Parker from Roll Over, as well as, some new characters being introduced including One-Eyed Betty, Stella's Bar, Chester (I assume in reference to The Band character), and his dog Jack. If writers write what they know, then Storedahl has had an interesting life. The four mid-tempo to up-tempo songs mentioned above kept my toe tapping while thrilling me with tales of being robbed and arrested, shady dealings, taking refuge in churches, affairs (including one in a church), and a strange assortment of characters which are hard to believe could be made up. The swampy scary story, (I Can't) Laugh Like That, stands out as a true gem with it's funky and steady bass motif, groovy clavinet, strange percussion, and unearthly ambient guitars...though I'm not sure what really happens or what it is about. The two softer songs on this side are love songs...Hold Me Now is a country-folk sing-along about redemption with Deb Brown singing backup, while Nothing to Me is a country waltz about true love with Jennifer Combe singing harmony. Side 4 begins with the words "Do you think this is finally over?" from Deniably Christ, Kid. Appropriate I assume, since we've already heard 20 songs. The songs on this side almost act as an epilogue to the rest of the album. Except for referencing a girl who went to Spain in Maybe Tonight and the country feel of Rocking Chair, the feel seems different and none of the earlier characters are mentioned ...almost as if it is several years later, and Storedahl is no longer in contact with any of them. Storedahl's son, Riley, plays sax on Maybe Tonight and That's How It Is adding a new voice to the already dense content. An R & B song, That's How It Is contains a fantastic melodic chorus and verses that tell of a relationship between two people that know each other like the back of their hands. A great lyric. Maybe Tonight is a mid-tempo song with spacey music along the order of the band Luna. It tells of a weird story about bears escaping which might represent Storedahl's own demons or a fascination with early John Irving. It also contains a great tenor guitar solo, and as mentioned Riley Storedahl's saxophone solo in the fade out. Rocking Chair, with Jennifer Combe's harmony vocal is a country, old-timey treat. It has a great feel and will make you smile, even considering the somewhat morbid last verse. The long and satisfying end track Anxiously Mistaken tells a tale of regret, and is so mesmerizing I found myself lost in a dream. Along with the groove of the bass, drums, guitar, and piano, a bubbly synth gurgles throughout the song. As to "The Whole Year Inn", Storedahl's latest offering, what are we to hear? His heart has not been dormant since his last album, 'Ink Block Fingerprint', but has been developing and probing towards it's own goal...musical excellence and great songwriting, of course. But a band approach has given this album a more organic sound. Melodies, which are true melodies that you can hum. Lyrics full of true heart, interesting insight, and sometimes psychotic imagery from his own experiences, but with messages we can all relate to in our own way. A fantastic collection of heartfelt art. -Bucky Diddle April 2011.