Country music always seems to be filled with nostalgia—looking back on the days of old with a southern drawl, an acoustic guitar, and a broken heart. Yet every so often artists like The Wakefields come along to alter these perspectives. Falling Down Blue is an album that grafts pop-like traits on a country-music base. While The Wakefields consistently encompass the alt-country genre, each song blurs the boundaries between this more modern form of country and old-timey folk-pop.
There’s even a strong oldies rock influence apparent in the earliest moments of Falling Down Blue. Remnants of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly can be heard, along with bass lines that mimic Elvis Costello—but, surprisingly enough, not from his lone country-like album, Almost Blue (1981).
One of the most notable tracks on Falling Down Blue is “Deeper Blue,” a song that most represents Buddy Holly in the lyrical styling frontman Jason Kardong ’96 lays down in the chorus. “The way I wrote the song and the way it turned out are completely different,” states Kardong, who codes for Microsoft in his day job. “It started out with a slow, walking bass line.” The song now has a quick tempo and a heavy pop feel. The lyrics blend romance-heavy ’50s pop (here comes my girl again with him / that smile tells me where they’ve been) with nostalgic twangy country (I’ll paint my world a deeper blue / I’ll have these thoughts about you / night after night).
Kardong is no stranger to the Seattle music scene. After being in numerous country and metal cover groups, he joined Six String Eric & His Lazy Ranch Hands and toured the rockabilly circuit up and down the West Coast in 2001. Recently Kardong has been found playing lap steel guitar for Sera Cahoone, the former drummer of Carissa’s Wierd (sic), whose members Matt Brooke and Ben Bridwell went on to garner success in Band Of Horses.
The album opener is “Without You.” The Wakefields establish their genre early with slide guitar. Here, as in the songs that most represent the core of country on Falling Down Blue, there are heavy traces of Dwight Yoakam. The song, like the rest of the album, is filled with emotion, and the lyrics flip from being simplistic (without you you’re better without me) to including intricate little hooks (when I’m all alone / the silence of my home / echoes how I ruined the best thing I knew).
What may be most surprising about The Wakefields is the diversity of influences. Lynn Sepeda is heavily into The Cure, as can be heard in his percussion on “She’ll Fly.” Here, the nature of the album begins to shift—gone is the country percussion and the emphasis on slide guitar. In their stead, The Wakefields add hand-claps and a vibrant Hammond organ.
A more recent influence on several band members is The Gun Album by The Minus 5, a Northwest indie-folk band with strong links to Wilco and The Decemberists. “Take Me Home” begins with a keyboard intro by Arne Chatteron, whose keys are a strong presence throughout the album, though they are not present in all songs.
While Falling Down Blue successfully combines the sensibilities of traditional country and pop, it’s The Wakefields’ off-stage sense of humor that alters perspectives and makes the album so exceptional.
When asked about past tours and upcoming shows, Kardong and Bogart went off on a time-traveling riff on shows they’ve played in different eras. “Most of our gigs happened in 1943 in this place called Cabana. They just love us there. But that’s like 200 years ago.”
It’s a lovable nature that is definitely present in their music, giving Falling Down Blue a fun and unique feel that is impossible to overlook.