ALBUM REVIEW: Dave Hause - Blood Harmony

7/10

Blood Harmony

There’s something infinitely satisfying about following an artist as they develop and grow, bringing you along with them through huge moments in their lives. It can’t be done with every artist, but with Dave Hause we get a front-row seat as he takes his first steps into fatherhood and a settled family life. His previous four albums have covered the rock and roll life, tackled politics, social issues and more, and while Blood Harmony hasn’t entirely abandoned those themes, the focus is firmly on family.

The album’s title refers to the synchronicity of siblings, inspired both by the influence of his brother, Tim, in the songwriting process and the fact Dave and his wife have brought twin boys into the family. Talk of a dynasty might just be a little premature though, given their sons are still toddlers.

The core of the album was written by Dave and Tim over Zoom sessions, before recording sessions in Nashville. Hause assembled a group of musicians in a recent interview he told XS Noize were “the cream of the crop,” and across Blood Harmony’s ten tracks it definitely shows.

There’s more tenderness than in his previous work, which is a refreshing addition to the Philadelphia-born artist’s repertoire. Northstar opens the record and plants its flag in Hause’s new focus: “Now you are my Northstar, I’m trading in my gun and my fast car for a couple of college fund tip jars, my sweet little babies, you came and saved me.” The familiar acoustic guitar strum is lifted excellently with gentle touches of piano and slide guitar.

Later in Hanalei he toys with the idea of escaping the “power line hum” and living with his family on a secluded island. Surfboard’s bouncing bass line, courtesy of The E Street Band’s Garry Tallent, adds levity to almost tongue-in-cheek lyrics about keeping his prayers to manageable proportions as he struggles to stay afloat. The album closes with the touching Little Wings, another acoustic ballad in which Hause ponders how he’s going to raise his sons, singing, “What a scary thing to know, the gravity that hangs on my voice.”

It might be a far cry from The Loved Ones or even some of Hause’s earlier solo work, but there’s consistency in his rawness, courage and honesty. With Tim as a writing and gigging partner these are the songs that’ll benefit most from stripped back live shows featuring the brothers and their harmonies.

He hasn’t lost his teeth though, and Blood Harmony serves up plenty of songs that scream to be played loud and fast.

Lead single Sandy Sheets is a pop-rock trip laced with nostalgia and longing for the simplicity of boardwalk summer holidays. Plagiarist is driven by a chugging, jangling guitar line before exploding into a glorious hook of a chorus underpinned by Tim’s vocal harmonies. They’re instantly satisfying and exactly what you expect from a Dave Hause record.

Album highlight Snowglobe channels Hause’s love of Soundgarden, fluctuating between quiet and loud sections. Guitarists Tom Bukovac and Sadler Vaden, are in top form with brooding but complimentary verse riffs. The chorus blows the song wide open with crashing, driven guitars and screaming bends. It’s expansive and yet another example of not just lyrical but musical progression on the record.

Listen to episode #56 of The XS Noize Music Podcast with Dave Hause - BELOW:

Gary will sneak up on you as one of the album’s most thought provoking songs. Hause explores the guilt of a previous life, hoping the kid who was picked on at school has recovered and moved on, but pleading that another child isn’t given the same name. He sings, “Maybe he’s married. God, it’d be such a relief if somebody’s giving him love like we gave him all that grief. Yeah, but don’t name him Gary…”

Lyrically and musically Blood Harmony is an excellent addition to the Hause catalogue, giving us more of a glimpse into his family life. It shows how his focus has shifted, but retains all of the punch, wit and hooks of his earlier work. He’s reaping the benefits of collaboration with his brother and the songs are consistently boosted by Tim’s harmonies; sometimes peeking through the mix, elsewhere front and centre. The promise of solo music from Tim is a tantalising subplot in the album’s release story.

Like several punk rock hell raisers before him, Dave Hause has matured into something of a folk rock troubadour. It suits him.

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