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Album of the Day 12/13/13: Little Ugly - Where The River's Born

Chip McCabe

9:38 AM EST, December 13, 2013

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Being a musician and being in a band is a never-ending journey. No two journeys are the same but sometimes the narrative is one that people can relate to. In the case of Hartford’s Little Ugly the narrative consists of multiple line-up changes, a rigorous live schedule, and the culmination of years of ups and downs with a fantastic recorded testimony to all of the above.

Where The River’s Born is the newest EP from one of the hardest working bands the Connecticut music scene has to offer. After years spent perfecting their line-up and their live sound the band now finally have a disc in hand that matches their collective talent level. That’s not to disparage anything they released prior. They’ve never put out a “bad” record but simply put, this EP trumps all that came before in songwriting, execution, and production.

This is also the first release to feature Kaia Pazdersky on vocals and violin. That can’t be understated in its importance. Vocalist/guitarist, Michael Day, and percussionist, Nick Dickinson have been the core of this band for a long time now but they’re also the only members left over from the previous release. In between albums Little Ugly not only found a new member but they found an integral piece to making their sound a more complete product. It’s apparent on tracks like “Oh, Return”, where Pazdersky steps out front for them that her talents, intertwined with those of Day and Dickinson, have taken Little Ugly from a very good band to a great one.

Little Ugly’s sound has always been a difficult one to categorize. Their win at the 2013 CT Music Awards for “Best Indie Rock” band tells only part of the story. Their acoustic-based sound is caught somewhere between indie rock, folk and Americana – sometimes encompassing it all within one track. “Promise of a Storm” is a perfect example, going from unassuming folksiness to bombastic rock orchestration all with five or so minutes. However you want to categorize their sound it’s unmistakably their own. Simply put, there are no other bands in the CT scene that sound like Little Ugly and Where The River’s Born highlights that over and over again.

If you’ve seen Little Ugly live you’ve heard these songs before. But never like this. The studio has clearly allowed them to play with different nuances and instrumentation that they’d need way more than three people to pull off live. But the songs are so recognizable all at the same time, a testament to their perfectionism on stage. If you’ve sung along to a song like “Named After Saints” at a bar you’ll certainly be doing so in your car or at your desk at work. But that’s another trademark of the Little Ugly sound – write memorable songs that stick with you like an evening with friends and family over a good home-cooked meal. Their passion for their craft is evident and therefore comforting in that way.

Where The River’s Born is out now. You can listen to the full album and purchase through the Little Ugly Bandcamp page.