Acclaimed rockers Roman Candle will release Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, their much-anticipated follow up to 2006's The Wee Hours Revue, May 12th, 2009 on Carnival Records.
"The songs and lyrics on this record grew out of us thinking about the relationship between what we hear, and what we desire," lead singer and guitarist, Skip Matheny, said about Oh Tall Tree…. On songs like "Eden Was A Garden" -- the album's opening track -- and "They Say," listeners can hear those meditations on sound and longing play out for themselves.
The songs for this album were written mostly in a rural part of the U.K., despite the band being from Chapel Hill, NC. "We had been playing shows in London after the Wee Hours came out, and we decided to stay for a month with some friends of ours who owned a manor house in east Yorkshire," says Matheny. "We stayed in an apartment above what used to be the horse stables, and wrote a bunch of lyrics and music for the new record." Matheny goes on to explain that the two major influences on them during this writing time, were Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll," which they had seen while in London, and Rainer Maria Rilke's "Sonnets to Orpheus," which they were reading at the time.
houseofblues_2003Produced by Jason Lehning (Alison Krauss, The Silver Seas) and recorded in Nashville and North Carolina, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear capitalizes on the band's distinct melodic sensibilities and earnest, introspective lyrics. Skip, Timshel and Logan Matheny, the trio at the core of Roman Candle, remain a band dedicated to the power of a well-crafted song.
"We love the idea of a song, and people who write 'songs'." says Matheny "Cole Porter, Paul Westerberg, Joni Mitchell, the list is very long, but our favorite writers and bands seem to be dedicated to what a song is, and how to craft a good one."
Touring has always been a strong point for Roman Candle, whose live show has been called "jaw-dropping." The band has toured with Rufus Wainwright, The Avett Brothers, Aimee Mann, The Whigs, Patti Smith, and Birdmonster. They also played NYC's world-famous Radio City Music Hall while supporting the Indigo Girls North American tour in 2006.
Roman Candle coalesced around the Matheny family: Skip, Logan, and Timshel (Skip and Logan are brothers, Skip and Timshel are married). They came together in Chapel Hill, a town where pop hooks and rural roots find friendly ears. Timshel was from Portland, OR, (a laboratory for progressive values) and the Matheny brothers from the Appalachian mountains (a repository for traditional ones).
Chapel Hill is a college town that celebrates its own southern authenticity, and was the perfect place for a band like Roman Candle to pop up. Time-tested wisdom about seamless musicianship between brothers certainly played out in Roman Candle's case: Skip's full-throated vocals and fiery guitar work meshed perfectly with Logan's rock solid drums. The warm sound of Timshel's Fender Rhodes and Farfisa organ became one of the most appealing elements of the band’s distinctive sound, and are an integral part of Oh Tall Tree…. Already they were writing sharp-eyed, situational songs about daily life.
After releasing their debut, Says Pop (2002), Roman Candle took their ebullient, hard-edged sound on the road. The band developed into a formidable live act – critics have described their show as "stunning" -- and gathered a fervent nationwide following.
Rolling Stone picked up on Roman Candle's earthy pop around this time, calling them Chapel Hill's "darling" band on the rise. As the national buzz around them grew, the band connected with renowned Chapel Hill-based producer Chris Stamey (Yo La Tengo, R.E.M., Whiskeytown) to record The Wee Hours Revue (2006). A collaboration with Stamey, the album retooled the songs on Says Pop, strengthening and expanding the band's sound. Timshel's deft keyboard work filled out the gaps between Skip and Nick Jaeger's hooky guitars, Jeff Crawford's buoyant bass and Logan's telepathic drums.
The new sound was a success. The album earned critical plaudits from many major media outlets. The Boston Globe called The Wee Hours "a stunner." Pitchfork's Grayson Currin said "Roman Candle is one of the best, most complete American rock bands to surface in a decade." Paste ranked the record #38 among the 100 best albums of 2006, while PopMatters said: "...you need to hear Roman Candle. Go get The Wee Hours Review: because you can, and because it’s damn good."
Throughout 2006 and 2007, the band toured nationally and internationally to promote The Wee Hours Revue, appearing twice on Bob Harris' program on BBC Radio 2. Nearly a year after its release, the record was still attracting ecstatic praise in publications like Harp, which called it "one of the sharpest roots-rock albums of the decade."
On moving back to the U.S. with the new songs in hand, the band started recording and arranging the songs at their family studio in Wilkesboro, NC. In the new songs, the band's lyrics became even more complex, its appreciation of the ineffable more explicit. After signing with Nashville-based label Carnival Recording Company, Roman Candle continued to record, finishing the album that would become Oh Tall Tree in the Ear (the band boosted the title from Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus), with producer Jason Lehning in Nashville over the last half of 2008.
With Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, the band's writing is at its most evolved, injecting a wry wit into their rollicking etudes on the human condition. At the end of Oh Tall Tree… Skip Matheny stands flat-footed in the gale of guitar noise that opens "Early Aubade" and as --at the top of his lungs -- he thanks the stars just for shining, you can hear him inviting you to share in the band's amazement at the world they live in. It's our world, too, and Roman Candle is here to remind us how lucky we are.