If you haven’t heard of the Cambridge, Massachusetts based Tulsa, you’re not alone but you’re missing out. Blending slow-burning country sounds with confident songwriting and beautiful, wispy production, Tulsa is one of the best bands without a full-length album. Singer Carter Tanton has a hell of a voice and his songs are effortlessly cool; he works just as well in a solo setting as with his band. Tanton, who looks vaguely like a young Nick Cave, got his start busking in New York subways and since then he’s opened for Low, Phosphorescent and he’s currently playing lead guitar for songwriter Marissa Nadler on her first tour with a backing band. He may be leaving his smoky, ethereal rock sound behind for something fuller, however. His new album is nearing completion and it sounds wild. I spoke to Tanton halfway between gigs with Nadler in San Francisco and Seattle.
“It’s all done except for the vocals and some of the vocals are done,” though he says a release date has not been set.
“One thing I agreed with that people said about the last one (I Was Submerged, 2007, Park The Van) is that it sounded mostly the same throughout…I tried to make the instrumentations [on the new record] kind of colorful; there wasn’t much color to the last CD. It was kind of grayish and foggy and this one sounds more awake.”
In looking for color and life, he could have done a lot worse than Brian Deck to produce. Deck produced both of Iron & Wine’s best albums, the quiet Our Endless Numbered Days and the rich, genre-hopping The Shepherd’s Dog. Deck has produced for Modest Mouse, Califone, Holopaw, and the Fruitbats; an eclectic mix that attracted Tanton.
“Brian Deck worked with Iron & Wine, he’s done the Califone records, which I love. He’s done all their records; he’s kind of a member of Califone. I like his, what other people have called, a kind of Junkshop sound. He’s always excited to use non-musical things in a musical way.”
Tanton has only the vocals left to record, which he says he’s going to hop off tour in Chicago and finish up sometime very soon. He and Nadler will head to Europe where he plans to spend most of the summer after recording. After a bit of rest, he and Tulsa will pick up where they left off, wowing everyone who sees them play.
“he's one of the best singer-songwriters in the country today.”
-John Richards NPR
“we…walked out of the club convinced that we had just seen the best rock band in Boston.”
His awesome Daytrotter Session
Song: Rafter from I Was Submerged. Didn't I tell you this guy rocks?