In honor of Have Gun Will Travel’s ten-year anniversary this month, I decided to post a review of their most recent LP, Science from an Easy Chair. (I wrote the article last year but never posted it.)
Since the group’s beginning ten years ago, HGWT has produced four outstanding LPs: Casting Shadows Tall as Giants, Postcards from the Friendly City, Fiction, Fact, or Folktale? and Science from an Easy Chair. The latter was released by This is American Music in June 2015…and to reference a HGWT album title, the record is still “Casting Shadows Tall as Giants.”
Science from an Easy Chair
by AltCountry&Beyond @altcbeyond
Bradenton-Florida based Have Gun Will Travel Science from an Easy Chair is a concept album based on the 1914 – 1917 Trans-Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton. The record showcases HGWT at their best: incredible songwriting, riveting ballads, catchy choruses, and talented musicians to support the effort. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Burke and the band took a bold risk embarking on a concept album. It is enough of a challenge to make a good record without any constraints, but a concept album is defined and scoped by the boundaries of a story. But indeed, as only HGWT can do, Shackleton’s story inspired them, and led to one of the best albums of the year.
The album is a cross-section of HGWT’s best songs to date including its upbeat, fast, sing-along songs, and its slower, riveting, acoustic guitar melodies. Science from an Easy Chair is one of Burke’s best songwriting efforts to date, and the album cements Burke as one of the most talented songwriters in music today. Burke, also a talented acoustic guitarist, is backed up by JP Beaubien on drums (who rocks!), Daniel Burke on bass, and Scott Anderson on electric guitar. Science from an Easy Chair progresses chronologically through Shackleton’s journey, and listeners can ponder if in some ways the record reflects HGWT’s own musical journey. Burke stated that the song “True Believers” was as much about HGWT believing in themselves as a band, as it was about Shackleton’s men believing they would be successful in 1914.
The record begins with a “spine tingling” recitation of Shackleton’s words about the expedition. “The first crossing of the Antarctic continent, from sea to sea via the Pole, apart from its historic value, will be a journey of great scientific importance…we hope, in our small way, to add victories in science and discovery.” The first songs feature optimism and emotion as Shackleton’s expedition leaves England to embark on their momentous journey.
The songs “Spirit of Discovery” and “True Believers” resemble some of HGWT’s classic upbeat songs like “A Blessing and a Course” and “The End of the World.” The album’s tone softens as Shackleton’s expedition runs into danger, with songs like “Fortifying the James Caird” (A song about a lifeboat Shackleton used to sail to safety) or “Despair and Redemption on Elephant Island” when the James Caird miraculously landed on an island but the men still needed to travel 32 miles to reach help.
The album closes with “Bottom of the World,” a reference to the survivors of the expedition who miraculously returned from their harrowing journey from the Bottom and the World. The last few songs of the album remind one of HGWT favorite’s “Katherine, Don’t Fall of that Wagon” and “Take me Home Alice,” with Burke’s slow-playing intricate guitar and descriptive songwriting.
Burke said that he hoped the album would stand on its own, even without the references to Shackleton. Indeed it does, and perhaps the songs speak more to the band’s own history than Shackleton’s journey. Together, the power of the two stories provided inspiration for one of the best albums of the year, and HGWT’s best album to date. Do yourself a favor…buy this record!
By AltCountry&Beyond (@altcbeyond)
Have Gun Will Travel Celebrates Ten Years of Music
Have Gun Will Travel – Science from an Easy Chair
Released by This is American Music, June 2015