Massy Ferguson play Backstage at the Green Hotel Kinross on Wednesday 24th July at 8.00pm for EMS / Mundell Music.
You know only good things can come from a band that named itself after a farm-equipment company. But Seattle’s Massy Ferguson is not as hayseed as you’d expect. Their songs are steeped in the classic Americana of the Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks, and the Backsliders. Rich with imagery of highways, truck-stop coffee, whiskey, road-weariness, and bad motels, Massy Ferguson make cinematic roots music about the blue-collar aspects of our nation. This is what Jay Farrar might sound like without his thesaurus.
Singer-bassist Ethan Anderson says the sound is Americana that leans more toward rock than country, and that’s a pretty good description. Think Drive-By Truckers or some combination of Son Volt and The Hold Steady. Think Springsteen’s “Greetings From Asbury Park” or “Nebraska.” Those influences, 1970s Southern rock and good-time classic rock bands like Thin Lizzy, have also helped them to land gigs at festivals and clubs in Australia, Iceland, Germany, England and Mexico.
If all that means Massy Ferguson is derivative, well, that’s partly true. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the songs, if not particularly groundbreaking, are just plain good. And the lyrics are full of enough detail and imagery that you start to forget any objections. Take, for instance, this bit from “Powder Blue,” on the album “Cold Equations”:
She worked the desk at the Klose Inn Motel
We snuck in, half-price at a quarter to twelve
Orange juice and vodka in a plastic cup
In a couple of days she’ll break my heart.
Now, you’ve probably never been to the Klose Inn Motel, and your probably don’t know this girl from the song, but you can picture it and her.
“You write about things you know,” Anderson says. “I used to live across the street from the Klose Inn Motel. No one knows where that is, but in a way it kind of resonates.”
Indeed it does. That’s thanks to the writing partnership between Anderson and singer-guitarist Adam Monda, Massy Ferguson’s founding members. They started the band in 2006 as a duo, playing a farmers market in Mukilteo. (They were paid with a fruit basket.)
“Adam’s pretty good with the weird, abstract details, and I’m pretty solid on the storytelling,” Anderson says.