Los Colognes – “Backseat Driver” (Stereogum Premiere)
Sometimes, Los Colognes sound like they’re dipping a ladle into the honey-sweet freewheeling of the Allman Brothers; other times, they steer that idling back into tightly focused, bluesy rock full of bleary imagery. It’s hard to hear them and not immediately think of the brothers Knopfler and that rootsy, jazz-leaning indolence that made Dire Straits so beloved. For their sophomore album, Dos, the band hunkered down in Nashville’s analog haven Bombshelter Studios and enlisted the somewhat legendary John Baldwin (Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Merle Haggard etc.) to master the self-produced record.
Today, we’re premiering one of the more careening tracks off that record, called “Backseat Driver.” The song kicks off with a guitar riff that would be a snarl if it wasn’t so pearly, and Jay Rutherford’s voice sounds rough but comforting, like a much-loved beard rubbing against your face. The group’s current lineup of six allows them to play with texture, deftly mixing languor and the more precise pinpricks of country, blues-rock, and even hints of dream-pop that are flecked throughout. Drummer Aaron “Mort” Mortenson and vocalist/guitarist Rutherford remain the core songwriting duo for the band, tracing their collaboration back some 15-odd years to their hometown of Chicago. Bassist Gordon Persha was part of these early iterations of the band, and eventually joined Mortenson and Rutherford in Nashville, who left the midwest and decamped down south to search for country ghosts in 2010.
The band’s humble Chicago beginnings meant lots of church gigs, and that experience came in handy in Nashville, where plenty of emerging solo artists needed support musicians. It was in this capacity that I first heard Los Colognes. They backed Caitlin Rose at her 2014 set for Georgia’s Savannah Stopover Festival, and I immediately recognized the flourishes and frills they added to her clean, minimal songwriting. It was their first gig with Rose and the chemistry unfolded naturally, a clear example of like recognizing like; musicians happy to get down in the same groove.
According to their self-mythology, the band originally lifted their name from a band that Mortenson’s uncle played in called the Clones. Some ghost in the machinery must have spurred them to rediscover the long-lost, paltry cassette of four songs, and listen to it on the drive down to Nashville. Though they’ve slightly modified their name and lineup since — adding keys players Micah Hulscher and Chuck Foster, guitarist Wojtek Krupka — it sounds like that same ghost is fiddling around Dos. Not all backseat drivers are unwanted, after all. Listen below and make an effort to hear the whole album, it gets better every time.
Here’s the full tracklist for Dos:
01 “Baby You Can’t Have Both”
02 “Backseat Driver”
03 “Drive Me Mad”
04 “Take It”
05 “One Direction”
06 “Golden Dragon Hut”
07 “Hard to Remember”
08 “All That You Know”
10 “They Got It On”
And their upcoming tour dates:
08/07-09 Appleton, WI @ Miles of Music Festival
09/04 Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
09/05 Knoxville, TN @ Barley’s Taproom
09/17 Nashville, TN @ Americana Music Conference
09/18-20 – Bristol, TN @ Bristol Roots & Rhythm
09/22 Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
10/01 Chicago, IL @ Schuba’s
Dos is out 9/4 via Theory 8.