When I first encountered the musical energy that would become 6 Day Bender’s 2008 self-titled debut, the boys were perched atop a booth at the Virginian on a lazy fall night, strumming their acoustic guitars and crooning for anyone within earshot. Barely a few steps off of Mr. Jefferson’s turf, from where frontmen Clayton Avent and Luke Nutting would soon graduate, they were hooting, hollering and generally kicking up a storm. The unplugged and frenetic sound of that record, anchored by Nutting’s bluegrass banjo, was like an exceptional dorm room jam finally liberated from those cinderblock walls and that annoying hall mate who keeps asking you to be quiet.
6 Day Bender channels the past while looking forward in this blown-out follow up to its 2008 debut.
My first taste of the band’s follow-up, E’ville Fuzz, which was released last week, came when Nutting pumped it through the speakers of a pickup truck idling outside The Box on a winter night. That rough mix revealed a far different sound, ripe with distorted electric guitars and thick, chugging rhythms. Physically, the band had left the proximity of not only the university but also Charlottesville, finding a rural refuge in an Earlysville farmhouse (hence the album’s title). Musically, their earlier eagerness had given way to a more mature and assured stance.
E’ville Fuzz sounds…well, fuzzy. But if you dig a little deeper, the two albums have a lot in common. There are solid songs, strong chops and professions of love and frustration bent into shape by gritty vocals and twangy strings. Just as they did the first time around, the band offers up both full-throttle tunes, like “Deliverance” and “Factory Man,” as well as lingering, intimate moments, such as “Clover” and “Huxley.”
Besides the fact that they are now running electricity through their instruments, one of 6 Day Bender’s biggest steps on E’ville Fuzz is a tendency toward a more expansive middle ground. They explore this territory with tracks like “Good Girl Blues,” an excellent tune that floats along on stretched-out slide guitar licks, the smoky, churning “Black,” and “Money, Buddy,” which begins with a simple Bo Diddley beat before the increasingly unhinged lead guitar and frequent F-bombs build to one of the album’s most visceral peaks.
The band concluded its 2008 debut with “Going Back Again,” a weary tune about giving up, packing your things and retreating to a place you’ve already known. This time they finish with “Out There,” a crescendoing song about looking towards the horizon. “I can still see it, all those thousand years away,” sings Nutting. “It’s out there, love. It’s out there.” Once a boisterous and promising group harboring worries about slipping or failing, 6 Day Bender is now a band unafraid of gazing toward the future. It’s a spirit that’s brought them to E’ville Fuzz, and it’s got the potential to take them even further. What’s next? Who knows? But it’s out there.