Album Review: Drawing Blanks / Traceless

With the opening flurry of guitar notes on Drawing Blank’s Traceless EP, it’s apparent that what follows will be a ferociously engaging listening experience. Their unique sound hits the ears in such a way that doesn’t mimic, but conjures vague associations with bands ranging from The Heavy, to Clutch, and The Black Keys. 

Sawyer Hill’s baritone vocals command the listener’s attention with a savory thickness and smooth cadence reminiscent of Clutch’s Neil Fallon. The literally heavy handed fuzzy guitar work is deep, captivating, and would be right at home on early Black Keys offerings. From a technical perspective, this album is expertly mastered. The parts are distinct, yet flawlessly blended throughout; thick organ chords reinforce the mix for an incredibly full sonic range. The sound is easily digestible, lulling you into a space of vague familiarity, yet the content is fresh and original.

The opener for the EP, which doubles as the title track, brings fire straight out of the gate, offering guitar stabs which make no illusion about the level of talent comprising this band. An upbeat and driving rock tune, punctuated with abundant bluesy guitar fills and solos drive the point home with lyrics like “If you were me, you’d abandon this ship, But you ain’t me, And I’m not one to quit.” 

This verse selection is an excellent example of the emotional struggles and inter-band dynamics which proved necessary to overcome in order for this EP to become a reality. The tempo only slows with the song’s closing, in order to make a lasting, somber impression. The follow up track “Yeah, Yeah” is an energetic instrumental, which wastes no time diving directly into action with meaty, percussive guitar work, and then swelling into a beautifully developed screeching sludgefest of a solo. Their third offering (which quickly became my favorite) opens with a riff which builds anticipation until the listener is blindsided by an organ swell that gives the track a feeling of freshness, yet at the time timelessness. 

“It wouldn’t work, but I had to try, girl. You’re in my mind, both day and night. What’s done is done, And it’s half past time, This lover’s blood ain’t just no crime” 

This track provides a window into the candid and honest struggle towards change documented by this extremely talented young band on this EP as they grow and develop into the diverse and enthralling musical act which they are rapidly blossoming. The verses rest solidly on a bedrock foundation of bass runs created by bassist Jared Guinn. Another notable track is “Cling to the Light,” which illustrates the bands ability to create deep and elaborate soundscapes which draw the listener into the desert setting alluded to by the lyrics. The song features a section comprised of a soulful and moving vocalization masterfully executed by Joel Robertson, which threatens to become an instant earworm. 

The closing track is a moving, poignant offering, flowing with a smoothness that would perhaps make even Carlos Santana raise a brow. “Eat Your Heart Out” boasts a bassline sure to penetrate deep into the gut of any listener; coupled with the incredible drum work by Spencer Hill, it creates a dynamic and tight rhythmic foundation which Joel and Sawyer adorn with grainy, yet beautiful, spiraling guitar licks. 

Drawing Blanks bring interesting and dynamic guitars, unique and alluring vocals, and as tight a rhythm section as any band could hope to have. This reviewer just happened to catch Drawing Blank’s live set at Creekfest this past May, and their live show is certifiably every bit as captivating, and engaging as the Traceless EP.  This EP, and this promising young band have so much going for them, any local music fan would be doing themselves a disservice in missing the boat on this one. The title of this EP may be Traceless, but it’s sure to leave a mark on any listener.

-Darryl Driskill, Shindigmusic

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