Friday, May 8, 2015

The Damnwells at Irving Plaza

Alex Dezen
Vocalist/guitarist Alex Dezen and bassist Ted Hudson met at Bard College in 1996, played in a few bands, and then relocated to Brooklyn, New York. There they met guitarist Dave Chernis and ex-Whiskeytown drummer Steven Terry and formed the alt-country band the Damnwells in 2000. The quartet recorded a debut album in a Manhattan Mini-Storage and in Dezen's bedroom. Chernis and Terry left the band in 2007, and the band continued with other musicians, but the original quartet reunited in 2013 and recorded the Damnwells' fifth album, entitled The Damnwells, released on April 14, 2015.

The Damnwells opened a two-month tour at Irving Plaza tonight with 20 upbeat rockers and slow-simmering country-tinged ballads. Dezen led the music with thoughtful, poetic lyrics and understated passion. His singing was unusually limited, however, seeming to strain even within a narrow vocal range. The effect was a bland delivery. The arrangements clicked, however, providing plenty of hummable hooks somewhere between power pop and roots rock. The concert ended with the mid-tempo "Golden Days," featuring backing vocals from Dezen's sister, gospel singer Cameron Dezen Hammon, and opening acts Ari Hest and Julian Velard. It was all performed in good taste, but with an overarching mildness that begged for greater stand-out uniqueness.

Visit the Damnwells at