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The Soothing Americana Of Hook & Anchor’s Debut Album Live In Portland

Hook & Anchor is the Americana new project lead by Kati Claborn, who has spent the last five years with Portland, Oregon indie folk outfit Blind Pilot. Trueblue was lucky enough to recieve an advance copy of Hook & Anchor’s self titled debut (out 7/15 on Woodphone Records) and catch their charming and packed-to-the-rafters hometown show at Portland’s Mississippi Studios last month.

The impetus for the Hook & Anchor project came about when Claborn’s longtime friend and collaborator Erik Clampitt (electric guitar, pedal steel) needed a band for a a few gigs that included a stop at the San Francisco Old-time and Bluegrass Festival. Claborn (vocals, guitar, banjo, ukulele) had a batch of songs that didn’t quite fit Blind Pilot’s modus operandi at the time, and she and Clampitt brought in Gabrielle Macrae (fiddle, banjo, guitar), and fellow Blind Pilot members Luke Ydstie (bass, piano), and Ryan Dobrowski (drums) to round out the lineup.

With such seasoned players rounding out the lineup, the brand-new band sounded like they’d been playing as Hook & Anchor for years almost immediately, which is obviously a good thing considering that as Claborn puts it “This band became a band through playing live shows. We used to joke that we played more shows than we had rehearsals.”

“Concerning Spectral Pinching”

Despite the songs being penned mostly by Claborn, Hook & Anchor is a collective in every sense of the word, with band members trading leads and verses often, and their gorgeously bittersweet vocal harmonies meld together with a palpable ease. On wax, Hook & Anchor feels familiar almost immediately, and for me recalled a lot of Nanci Griffith‘s work that I grew up listening to, especially the insanely catchy “Light Of The Moon”. The purty record has parts where it feels almost too at ease or polished, but those are quickly outshone by it’s unique and more dramatic moments on songs like album standouts “No, It’s Not”,”Hazel Dell”, “Considering Spectral Pinching” and the goosebump-inducing beauty of gospel number “Hammer”.

Live Hook & Anchor couldn’t be more engaging, and their polished arrangements are a bit more rough around the edges than on record (in a good way). I often found myself getting lost in the instrumental breakdowns during the song’s outros and wishing the band would have kept the foot stompin’ rhythms up longer. The packed Mississippi Studios floor was filled with folks swaying back and forth with smiles as big as nearby Mount Hood plastered on their faces, and I was not alone in cheering loudly for more at the end of the set.

Hook & Anchor’s greatest strength may lie in their ability to amplify the genuinely warm feelings they evoke on record while performing live. For a band playing songs most in the audience had never heard, the alluring tunes clearly resonated with those in attendance. The show felt as if the band had invited all of us to a barn party they were throwing instead of a concert, and I can’t really think of a better compliment for an Americana band.

“Famously Easy”

Hook & Anchor tour dates:
Jul 19 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR
Aug 08 Conor Byrne Pub Seattle, WA
Aug 15 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR
Sep 26 Independence Hop & Heritage Festival Independence, OR