Local Listen – Bison Bone Embraces Change On New EP ’40 Grit’

Bison Bone
Photography by Dan Schrock

The last time we spoke with Bison Bone was following the release of The Lost Weekend, an EP described as a timeless epic reflective of the period of change humanity collectively experienced during 2021. Just like any good creative project, Bison Bone has evolved in those two long years, implementing changes in their music and their lineup and the result thus far has been undoubtedly positive. October brought the release of their latest album, 40 Grit, a five-track EP that features lead singer and guitarist Courtney Whitehead, drummer Adam Blake, bassist Tony Piscotti and the newest band member, guitarist Eric Tate.

Along with this updated foursome, the album also features keyboardist Mike Lang, who handled the “piano, organ, Wurlitzer,” Hayley Helmricks on backup vocals, and Ben Waligoske on pedal steel and dobro. Produced by Eric Tate in his studio, Slash O, the album happened in real time with very little pre-production. “All of us in the same room tracking together and working out the dynamics,” said Whitehead of the recording process. “We didn’t want to lose any magic that would happen organically once we hit record.”

Bison Bone
Photography by Rett Rogers

The starkest difference between 40 Grit and the albums that came before it is, in Whitehead’s own words, that it “was produced in a way that I could play these songs solo or with the full band.” This determining factor is clear to listeners — each of the five songs can be made simpler or more complex, with Whitehead’s vocals and leading guitar giving space for the music to shrink down or grow bigger depending on which ways it’s being pulled. There’s room for both types of sounds and vibes, and that flexibility adds an enigmatic layer to the music. 

This mystifying element to 40 Grit was part of the intention, to “let the melody and the story carry the song,” said Whitehead. With a different style and inspiration than previous albums, he really honed in the lyrics, and the songs themself “are not as in your face, they don’t have the loud guitar solos and guitar hooks like in the past.” Making the music more “lyrically and sonically” pronounced was a way to build depth and create new dynamics for both the album and its listener. 

Whitehead feels like the local music scene is constantly evolving and with that, Bison Bone has adapted to and rolled with the changes. “[It] has forced us to put a lot more thought into the way we move forward as a band,” he said. “The band has evolved in a way where we do everything with way more intent — what, how and when we do things.” Yet some things stay the same, as was showcased at the release party for 40 Grit, which saw a lot of familiar faces. The  debut was a rewarding experience for Whitehead, gauging the reactions to the new songs “live and in real time.” Following that lead, the band is looking forward to having more opportunities to play live shows, to getting busier and continuing to share the music, in all capacities.

Listen to 4o Grit by Bison Bone on Spotify here.

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