You may know John Andrews from his work as a part of both Woods and Quilt, which he contributed not only his talents in recording, but also in touring with these two acts. Somehow, amongst the hectic schedule of being part of two bands, he has also found time to write and record an album of his own. Bit By The Fang is John Andrews and his imaginary backing band’s debut solo album, and it’s packed with lo-fi Americana.
John Andrews and the Yawns have a sound that is difficult to describe. At moments, the music seems to lean towards bluesy rock, and the next you’re made to believe Bit By The Fang is a work dominated by jangly guitar. This mixing of genre, perhaps even in just one song, works well for Andrews, and you can hear this happening from the very start of the record with opener, “Don’t Spook The Horses.” Leading off with that grittily distorted cutting electric guitar, the song blazes in to your headphones and instantly hooks you. Joining that guitar is ragtime piano and Andrews’ feather-light vocals that waft and warble in to the mix. He spins a tale in those echoed vocals, a carnival-esque whirlwind of sound that serves as a wonderful introduction to his solo work.
The strongest parts of this album come like bookends at the beginning and the end. As I just discussed, the first track is a great start, and Andrews continues this strong start with “Peace of Mind,” which sways more to the blues side of sound. Its slow-moving rhythm and prominently groovy bass part serves as the core of the song, while that bouncy piano is still there to lighten the track. “Angel,” a brief little piano ditty, echoes that of early 20th century simplistic rag music, but its nevertheless an interesting tune after you’ve grown accustomed to the complex layers that Andrews has thrown your way so far.
While the middle of this album listens a little flat, the end picks back up again for the last few tracks. “Quitting The Circus” is a song that is at once eerie and rock’ and roll: the vocals seem extra twisted and somehow slightly sinister while the guitar hits hard and loud, almost drowning out the piano. Last track, “No Gun,” is a music box lullaby that has Andrews posing philosophical questions atop pensive piano, slow and easy.
Bit By The Fang is yet another solid release from Woodsist Records, and John Andrews has managed to put his name on my map as a solo artist. I’ll be looking forward to what the future holds for this talented musician, be it as part of another band or on his own.