Pittsburgh Calling: The Working Poor
Thursday, October 12, 2006
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A capsule look at Pittsburgh bands making news.
The Working Poor
Band: Alan Lewandowski (guitar, vocals); Lee Smookler (vocals); Brian
Dean Richmond (bass); Greg Pierce (guitar); Thad Kellstadt (drums).
Past resume: Tiny Little Help (flagship of the Rickety scene), The
Feral Family, The Lesser Apes, The Cuff, Johnsons Big Band, Anita Fix,
Sound: Oldtime country-folk with dual vocals and a hint of sour
indie-rock turbulence. Think Hank Williams meets "Hallowed Ground"-era
New record: "Come Down for Your Silver" is the band's fourth release,
following a live album in 1997, a 4-song EP in 2002 and the 7-song CD
"New Wealth" in 2004.
Early influences: Lewandowski, who grew up in Fayette County, says
"Country is what I grew up with," "The first music I grew up with was
Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. My dad was a fanatic, just religious
about country music. That's what my dad liked and I liked it and I
didn't feel any need to rebel -- at least until I went to college."
Border music: During Lewandowski's stint in Albuquerque with his
former band, Tiny Little Help, the singer-songwriter was intrigued by
Mexican norteno music, sung in Spanish with a dry acoustic guitar.
"That had a huge effect on me -- the simple sincere sound really lends
itself to vocals."
Making "Silver": "We had an offer to come up to a studio in Erie to
record and we knew we had one weekend to work with," says Lewandowski.
"We picked out a batch of songs and wanted to record them just as we
had as we had been playing them -- just wanted to get it close to
industry standards, at least."
Mr. Cohen's stamp: Lewandowski, who writes the songs, with Smookler as
his "filter," says he'd been listening a lot to "Recent Songs" by
Leonard Cohen. "That stamped the lyrics on this album pretty clearly
-- his way of making nature and the lover and his own twisted theology
part of one subject to sing to."
Reaction to the Poor: On the band's unique sound, Lewandowski says
that, from Louisville to New York City, "usually people are pretty
surprised to hear what we're doing."
Release show: Saturday at 10 p.m. the Brillobox, Bloomfield, with Hem
+ Haw and My Niece Denise.