Spotlight: The Contribution
Call it a supergroup or, better yet, a jamband supergroup. These five friends—The String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann (percussion) and Keith Moseley (bass), New Monsoon’s Jeff Miller (guitar, vocals) and Phil Ferlino (keyboards, vocals) and Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone (violin, guitar, vocals)—have just released the record Which Way World under the moniker The Contribution. While the album is new, the seeds have actually been planted for several years.
While the musicians’ respective musical paths have crossed in the past, they didn’t really come to a head until String Cheese’s festival at Horning’s Hideout in 2005. The vibe was conducive to musical mind-melding and it was a trippy, between-stages jam that had Carbone, Miller and Ferlino flashing on the same thought: we need to take this thing further.
So, whenever the stars (and touring schedules) lined up during the next three years, the trio retreated to West Marin, Calif. for writing sessions. By late 2008, there was enough material ready to think about adding a rhythm section for recording.
“Jason’s a master of world percussion,” says Carbone. “Our thought was, ‘Why not put him behind a drum kit and set him loose with Keith on bass?’” The combination clicked.
With the lineup in place, The Contribution hit the studio, creating an album in “14 days total, soup to nuts,” says Carbone. Moods and sound textures shift and change throughout Which Way World, from the tension-filled opener “Come Around” (featuring a super-slinky snake dance between Miller’s slide guitar and Carbone’s violin) to the rip-roaring, stomp-the-porch joyousness of the final track, “Year of Jubilee.”
There’s no shortage of nods to The Contribution’s inspirations, either. “Fear of Nothing” finds the band getting in touch with its inner Rolling Stones—brilliant barroom piano against crunchy Keith Richards-style riffs, backed by guests The Black Swan Singers laying down some serious “Gimme Shelter” vocals. The title track weaves Beatlesque harmonies and strings with a guitar flavored by a bit of Jimmy Page grandeur. “Steady Ride” has the rollicking feel of a vintage Waterboys tune. “Yeah, we all wear our influences on our sleeves, for sure,” confirms Carbone.
While there are moments that truly jam on Which Way World, the band serves the songs first and foremost. To that end, Carbone hears a theme running through the album. “The only way you’re going to get beyond the suffering in your life is to work on what’s going on inside your own head,” he says. “The rest of it is all a bunch of crap. That’s where the sprit of the record is coming from.”
Despite the new release, the band won’t be touring in earnest anytime soon. “None of us are in a position, time-wise, to go out on the road behind this album,” says Carbone, who’s heading into the studio soon with Railroad Earth. “We have a couple of CD release shows planned—one in Denver and one in San Francisco—and from there, we’ll just see how our schedules line up.”
But don’t get the idea that the catch-as-catch-can nature of The Contribution’s schedule means that the band isn’t serious about making music together. “I’ve never had as exhilarating an experience in my life as I did with these guys making this record,” says Carbone unwaveringly.
He pauses before chuckling: “We’ve got four more songs for the next record already.”
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