Alt-country outfit Dead Winter Carpenters to play Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp.
Alt-country outfit Dead Winter Carpenters have been staking their claim in the American roots music revival since 2010, but it took a fortuitous meeting of musicians in California to bring them to Wilkes-Barre.
More than a year after the release of the band’s fourth studio album, “Washoe,” Dead Winter Carpenters is slated to headline an evening of music that begins at 9 p.m. today at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township and features newly acquired drummer and Harford Township native Brendan Smith.
Smith, the cousin of Cabinet kinsmen Patrick “Pappy” and J.P. Biondo, joins the group after the recent departure of percussionist Brian Houston.
J.P. Biondo will join fellow Scranton musicians the Dishonest Fiddlers in opening for DWC at the Jazz.
The remaining founding members of Dead Winter Carpenters have played together for seven years, but in that time, they’ve earned slots on bills with Jason Isbell, Greensky Bluegrass and Hard Working Americans.
Guitarist Jesse Dunn, fiddle player Jenni Charles and upright bassist Dave Lockhart had been playing in various, waning bands in San Francisco, Northern Lake Tahoe and Truckee when they met at a music festival in 2009.
“We decided to give it a whirl with a new group,” Dunn said.
Through connections they were offered a series of after-party gigs following performances by jamgrass juggernaut Yonder Mountain String Band at the Crystal Bay Club in Lake Tahoe.
“We really had a captive audience, and it was a great way to get in front of our target audience,” Dunn said. “There was a great vibe at those shows, and it opened our eyes to the possibility of making this our band.”
And make it their band they did. Following their self-titled debut in 2010, DWC released “Ain’t It Strange” in 2012 and the critically lauded “Dirt Nap” in 2014.
The ensemble’s wide-ranging influences are apparent as they go from mountain folkies to bluegrass pickers to country crooners in one album side, all while maintaining pristine vocal harmonies and putting a premium on story telling.
“We pull a lot from traditional bluegrass, but we pull a lot from classic Americana influences as well,” Dunn said. “The Band is a favorite of ours as are the Grateful Dead and Neil Young.”
Dunn said “Washoe” is a genre bender, but comes together well as a composition.
“I feel it, overall, has a pretty cohesive sound,” Dunn said. “The songs are still a little all over the place but with a common thread.”
Working with a new engineer and producer on the record, Dunn said the goal was to have more of a live performance feel than with previous albums.
“Through the years, we have been making it a goal to create our own sound,” Dunn said. “With ‘Washoe,’ that’s the closest we’ve gotten to laying down what we feel is our own sound.”
With the departure of a seasoned collaborator in Houston, DWC was in need of someone to keep delivering that sound live.
Between Dunn and Smith, the story varies slightly, but the basics are these:
Dunn and Charles were playing a duo gig in Truckee. Smith, who had recently moved to Truckee after a stint in New York City, was in attendance.
On a set-break, the three began talking and realized Smith was blood to the Biondos, whom had played several gigs with DWC as members of Cabinet.
Dunn said he thinks Smith “actually sat in on guitar,” and Smith said he “found some spoons,” but music was discussed, played and otherwise shared and enjoyed among capable artists.
At one point, a photo was sent to the Biondos to prove the chance meeting — and Pappy mentioned Smith was “a great drummer.”
“We brought Brendan in and auditioned him, and he studied hard and worked hard,” Dunn said. “He’s a great player.”
Smith said he’s intrigued and challenged by the group, which has a “great balance of structural bluegrass and country” while opening up and getting “jam bandy” in spots.
“I need that in a musical outlet,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun to play.”
Smith said it’s “like a dream come true” to return to his home region and play for friends and family in a band he’s excited about, and he’ll be joined by fellow recent addition Nick Swimley on guitar.
“He’s played with Jackie Greene (Black Crowes), and he’s a big student of the Bakersfield sound,” Dunn said.
“Everybody’s excited about where we’re headed. The new players are adding a lot to the sound and the dynamic and the vibes.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Dead Winter Carpenters with special guests Dishonest Fiddlers and J.P. Biondo
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River Street, Plains Township
When: 9 p.m. today
Additional information: Tickets cost $5 in advance and $7 at the door the evening of the show and can be purchased online at bit.ly/2svLLH6.