Being the more than occasionally dense person that I am, it took me about a week to realize that Odlaw is Waldo spelled backward. As a childhood fan of the “Where’s Waldo?” books and a native of Waldo County, I should be ashamed of myself.
The reason for having Odlaw on my mind is that I’ve spent the past week listening to the debut album by the band of the same name — which happens to be from Waldo County. I was thinking more about what a fun, accessible, musically diverse collection of songs the power trio has recorded, and how neat it is that they’re playing not one, but two shows in Greater Bangor in the coming weeks. Then I had my “duh” moment, and I kept on listening.
“We’re a little bit of everything,” said Jerry Weaver, bass player, vocalist and co-songwriter, with guitarist Sam Ladd. “There’s the alt-country thing, the blues thing, the alternative rock thing. I guess it’s hard for anyone to figure out what to say about what they sound like.”
Odlaw will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at Bull Moose Music in Bangor, as part of World Record Store Day celebrations. And yes, there’s a little alt-country, a little blues and rock in their sound, which is divided evenly between Ladd’s more country and blues-influenced songs and Weaver’s punk and indie leanings, all balanced out by drummer Gary Grant’s solid foundation.
Grant and Ladd attended Belfast Area High School as teenagers, but grew apart in the ensuing years. Grant has played in a number of Belfast-area bands, and received an award for drumming from the American Country Music Association. Ladd is also a Belfast area veteran, who has been playing guitar since he was 15. The pair re-met while both played in the band for the 2001 Belfast Maskers production “The Boys From Swanville,” an original rock musical.
“We hadn’t played together in years,” said Ladd. “But we always need a bass player.”
For seven years, the two played together, always tossing around the idea of a band. In 2008 they met Weaver, a Maine transplant from California who moved to Belfast in 1998. Though originally a guitarist, Weaver told them he could play bass if needed. Shortly thereafter, Odlaw was born.
The dual songwriting of Ladd and Weaver adds depth to the album. Ladd’s gravelly voice and country inflections play well against Weaver’s sense of melody and funk-punk bass-lines. Weaver’s songs bring to mind the Cars, punk band X and the Talking Heads, while Ladd brings a vibe that’s very much akin to Steve Earle and Wilco.
“Being eclectic is good for us,” said Weaver. “We disagree on some things and we have different taste, definitely, but it all comes together in the end.”
The band recorded “Odlaw 1” last summer and fall, at home in Waldo County. It’s a tight, clean recording, with standout tracks like “Wilted Flowers” and “Self Medicate” weaving between rock, punk and country with seemingly little effort. It’s accessible, fun stuff, and an immediately enjoyable album. The distinct songwriting voices keep everything interesting, merging two mindsets and styles into one cohesive whole.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that we can play to anyone, ages 8 to 80,” said Grant. “There’s no extras. It’s just good songwriting and playing. That’s what makes it work. That’s what we love.”
In addition to Saturday’s Bull Moose performance, which also will feature a performance from Dominic and the Lucid at 2 p.m., Odlaw will play at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Next Generation Theatre in Brewer, with Bangor band Sam & Yuri. Admission is $10. For information on the band, visit www.odlaw.org.