Good New Music Review
Walk With Me
To get to the heart of the story behind New England-based rising roots-jam band Creamery Station, this publication went straight to the source.
First up, the origin of the multigenerational group’s name.
“I was actually raised on a small farm in Bethany, Conn., that was originally called the Creamline Dairy,” mandolinist/singer Dylan Kader told Good New Music by email. “It was no longer operational when my family bought it, but we always hung out in a building on the farm called the Creamery Building when I was growing up, and that is where we would hang out, have parties, get weird and jam music. My father (Jim Kader) is the guitar player in the band, and he also lived there for over 20 years.
“So the name is a bit of a nod to where we came from, while also recognizing it as one of the many destinations you stop at on the train tracks of your life’s journey. And with this in mind, we are hoping to leave all of those passing through with a positive experience and a lesson to help further themselves through community, story, song, and dance!”
Creamery Station started out small and gradually grew to a septet (mandolin, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion).
“And then last March … (violinist, steel guitarist and banjo player) Bobby (Pickett) joined the band full time,” Kader explained. “He sat in a bit in the past, and was even a member at one point when we first started gigging, but he was first in another band that played out a lot — so when we started playing out numerous nights a week, he couldn’t make enough of the dates work and had to take a step back to just do sit-ins every now and then when our schedules aligned.”
Pickett’s addition really fleshes out the sound, especially his steel guitar, which adds elements of country rock and Southern rock.
“It’s a modified lap steel with hand-actuated pedals,” Pickett told GNM by email. “This is made possible with the Duesenberg Multibender bridge,” a device that enables creation of realistic pedal-steel tones.
Keyboardist and de facto audiovisual guy Jon Truelson provides not only rock and blues organ, but also occasional barrelhouse piano and even electric piano and accordion sounds.
“I play a Nord Stage 2 keyboard,” Truelson said when GNM asked him if the accordion was real or simulated. “The accordion is accomplished by way of wavetable synthesis using meticulously recorded samples of an actual accordion played in real time from the keyboard.”
Harmonicat Don DeStefano uses an arsenal of about 20 harps to cover all of the instrument’s subgenres, spanning country to blues and traditional to modern.
“The harps I use are Seydel 1847 series, some in custom tunings and keys,” DeStefano said. “I’ve been an endorser of and involved with Seydel harmonicas in Germany for over 10 years.”
GNM asked DeStefano how he determines where to insert his playing in any given Creamery Station song.
“What I do, and basically the whole band does also,” he explained, “is once one of the writers introduces a bare-bones version of a new song to the band, I learn … the chords, rhythm, melody, etc. … along with working on fills and countermelodies to play against. We kind of all just throw it together in a blender and start weeding out … anything that clashes with another instrument or vocal, (and) try different approaches until we come upon an … arrangement that sounds good to all of us. It’s … a rather long process, and still further refined out on the road and stage.”
Rounding out the group are Alex Wu on bass, Harry Cooper on drums and Michael Ryan on percussion.
“Walk With Me” is Creamery Station’s first studio album proper — there have been EPs and demo collections, but this is their true debut.
“We are hungry and so excited to show people what we have been working on,” the younger Kader enthused. “Before this album, all we had online were some older live recordings and that 2017 demo CD we did at our keyboardist’s house. … Not that I don’t like that one, but we kept adding songs to it as we wrote them just to get something on a disc to hand out and get our music out there. Most of the songs didn’t get to take on a life of their own yet before they were recorded, and then they later evolved in live settings.”
“Pistol by My Side” and “Dan the Outlaw” are sure to win favor from Grateful Dead and Kingfish fans who have a soft spot for those groups’ covers of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and “Big Iron,” respectively.
But no jam band can be tied down to just one genre, so there’s also the freewheeling “Fernwood,” inspired by a Big Sur road trip. The song perfectly conveys the feeling of rolling down the California coast and camping on the beach, with its call-and-response vocal sections really emphasizing camaraderie.
Furthering the group’s eclectic approach is “Wake Again.” Kicked off by an arresting twin guitar-harmonica riff, the song settles into a shuffle reminiscent of Little Feat meets the Allman Brothers Band circa 1973. Group members are all afforded short solos, before Truelson takes it out with a subtle nod to ABB pianist Chuck Leavell.
The centerpiece is lone instrumental “Killian’s Dream,” written by Ryan.
“Killian was a dog of mine back in the ’90s — black Lab/Walker hound mix,” Ryan shared. “Best dog ever. I was touring back then, and he went everywhere with me. One day I saw him running in his sleep, and he was ‘excited.’ I started thinking, ‘Wow, must be a great dream. What is he dreaming about?’
“I came up with my own story in three parts of what it was he was dreaming about. Since he was a frisbee dog, part of the story is him playing. Then he meets a girl. Then they do what lovers do — LOL. There is a hidden message in the syncopation, which is 1-6-1-5-2-0. It was meant to be a code to crack us musicians up: He lived 16 years, and I still miss him today.”
Credit for the album’s immaculately recorded sound goes to Vic Steffens of Horizon Music Group in West Haven, Conn. Steffens is a musician turned engineer and producer (Rory Block, Lita Ford, Matt “Guitar” Murphy), and offered GNM some feedback on the method to his madness.
“The album was initially recorded live in the studio to capture the band’s live vibe,” he said. “But all the vocals were replaced and many, but not all, of the solos. When I’m doing a jam band, I try to make it sound like a great live gig.”
When pressed for any special techniques he might have used to get a certain sound, he replied, “Nah, I’m super-old-school: right mics and presence in a great room; little this and that; season to taste. Jon Truelson was a great help managing the data and providing ears from the band perspective. He deserves mention. And … he let me do my thing without any ‘this used to be my job.’ I know that’s not easy.”
1. Pistol By My Side
3. I’d Be Pleased
4. Without The Bad
6. Heaven Looks Down
7. Wake Again
8. Those Days
9. Killian’s Dream
10. One With Zero
11. Dan The Outlaw
12. Show You The Way
Total time: 65:46