“Well I’ve been left by every woman that I’ve known,” sings Matt Lane in the opening line of the opening song on Narrow Plains, the just-about-to-be-released EP by new, local roots-rock band Black Robin Hero. Yes, that’s a lot of firsts and starts. But it’s not fits and starts. No sir. Black Robin Hero (who purports, in its bio-by-way-of-personal-mythology to be born of a booze-fueled tryst between Bonnie Raitt and some member of Wilco) is not shy. The band comes out of the gate with cymbals flaring, guitars revving, kick-drum taking a beating in the punch and dance. No apologies, no awkward silences, no stammer, no sidelong glances. Just all systems go, full speed ahead, take no prisoners, charge. This is how you make an entrance.
Black Robin Hero (whose name warrants some explanation — a rogue cartoon super hero? An ornithological affinity? A rob-the-rich-to-serve-the-poor leaning?) is Lane with his bandmates from the folk-rock collective formerly known as The Narrow Plains: J. Rowland on guitars and vocals, Shawn Oldham (Test Match) on bass and vocals, Greg Terkelson (This Man’s Hat) on keys and vocals and Brian Ross on percussion. (Actually, Black Robin Hero is also the name of Oldham’s metal art studio.)
Each of six tracks on Narrow Plains are consistent and heavy hitting. There’s a suppleness to the musicianship — guitar solos are jangly and bright, stretching out over soundscapes of dusty highway miles, sun-drenched plains, places found off highways and around hairpin turns. But for all that expressiveness, this is a muscular song collection that will be heard. Lane sings with ache and bruised-knuckle intensity. There’s a rasp just out of earshot, a catch in his voice that is suggested more than actual. Vocals as much as lyrics are underscored by potent emotionalism. “Be the change in the world that you want to see” is the refrain to the guitar-and-horn-drenched final track.
Horns by guest Henry Westmoreland (Firecracker Jazz Band) up the band’s fervor. Equally important: A pretty guest vocal by Lauren Baker (Sirius.B) on “We Won’t Stop” serves as a nice foil to the Black Robin Hero’s substantial edge. “We Won’t Stop” verges on anthemic, its percussive hits setting the pace for a barroom dance session. “Capstan” launches with jazz horns and then strings and then speakeasy piano and then the viper-snap of drums as the song whips and charges. This is Americana with a serious caffeine (or something stronger) buzz. And it’s catchy — bold, brassy and as fun as it is urgent.
Black Robin Hero holds its EP release party on Saturday, March 2 at Isis. 9 p.m., $7 at the door. Singer-songwriter Ken Kiser also performs.