I can’t admit to having a strong memory as to which years have or have not been particularly good for New England-bred bands with a touch of whiskey-soaked folk and blues about them (some people call this “Americana,” and in my case it’s under silent protest), but I’ll roll the dice here and say 2014 felt like a solid effort. One way or another, these musicians often found themselves in the middle of something good—either a coveted opening slot at Boston Calling (Tigerman WOAH!) in September, or warm reviews for a new album (now-Nashville based Joe Fletcher and You’ve Got the Wrong Man…), or, in the case of Cask Mouse when we speak, just ducking inside someplace warm following soundcheck. The Allston band ends their busy year, which included a US tour and taking home an award for Best Americana Act at this year’s Boston Music Awards, right back where they were at the end of 2013: getting ready to perform in 20-degree weather as part of the First Night festivities, albeit considerably wiser and so forth.
“This year was a lot of moving around,” says Kevin Boldwin, dwindling down the last hours of 2014 at his apartment. He ticks off the highlights—the festivals in Vermont and New Hampshire, the BMAs (mostly because it “seemed like a pretty awesome party”), and even the smaller moments, like performing on top of a trailer in deep south Texas for a crowd of skeptical-but-soon-convinced locals. There’s a quick mention of early preparations for a third album, but as other voices from the band chime in on the conversation, they all agree that they’d rather be onstage that in studio. “I love the songs we made on the last one and I don’t think enough people have heard them yet,” says Boldwin, “so we’re going to keep rocking until everybody hears it.”
They pass on offering details of what that new album might eventually sound like, but Cask Mouse is a band equally defined by what it is and what it is not. The members all knew each other prior to forming a band, but weren’t assembled as a unit until about five years ago, by Alvan Long, who placed them on his Curve of the Earth Records imprint. They don’t have fixed roles within the group; “Bull,” the single of 2013’s “Heartbeat of the Northeast,” came about after the group hijacked a breakup song Boldwin was composing and rewrote it line-by-line by passing around a notebook in a circle.
Most importantly, they are a band comfortable navigating within the wide borders of their chosen genre without feeling self-conscious about their current zip code, with “Heartbeat of the Northeast” framing their warm-blooded sound with a New England perspective. “A little bit of our intention with the title,” says Boldwin, “was not trying to pull wool over anyone’s eyes that we are a country Southern band. We’re trying to be honest on where we are from and our roots.”
It’s true; only a New England band could squeeze some joy out of an outdoor crowd on a freezing December night. Considering that start, 2015 should be a great year.
CASK MOUSE W/ PARKS + TALLAHASSEE + HALLELUJAH THE HILLS. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. SAT 1.10. 8PM/$12/18+.CASKMOUSE.COM