They’re not actually a gospel band (don’t let that name fool you), although they are known for their soulful dirges—rousing, exuberant celebrations of all things song-appropriate: girls, cars, heartbreak, the summer. Mixing drunken, blues-y laments with jangly melodies and vintage production techniques—Tempe, AZ’s Gospel Claws are poised to take their place in a long line of swaggering Americana acts (think Local Natives/ Fleet Foxes/ The Strokes/ Delta Spirit/ The Walkmen)—with catchy, rollicking tunes bursting with passion and sincerity.
Formed in 2007 by Dear and the Headlights front man Joel Marquard (a rough-voiced bluesman with a penchant for dramatics), Gospel Claws got their start playing shows and turning heads in hometown Tempe—practicing in cramped spaces and trying to avoid noise complaints from deaf (but critical!) neighbors.
But that could be all about to change. Their debut album, C-L-A-W-S, drops next week, and is full of the type of slosh-y summer anthems that make you feel alive—from the pounding beat and stylish, CYHSY-style guitars of opener “Walk me down” to the sing-song-y, campfire feel of "Summer nights lakeside."
Some tracks, like impassioned slow-burner “Stars in my heart” are pure mixtape gold—while “Avenues” is a drunken, clap-along charmer that insists, cheekily—"If you find yourself lost in the crowd, you can swing your knife around and cut your way out." Riiiight.
The sopping, blues-y "Somebody stole my money" sounds like an old Bessie Smith/Ma Rainey recording, with slow, sopping harmonies and thick reverb—while "Baby, I’ll take you home" features old time-y harmonica—and "Need for speed" reinvents the classic car jawn, with slowed down vocals and surf-rock guitar.
But my fave track is probably the brash, rambunctious "La Pequeña" (that’s Spanish for "the small one"): a throbbing celebration of heartbreak and the scene that inspires some serious moves.
C-L-A-W-S drops next Tuesday through Common Wall Media; six-pack not included.