FEBRUARY 19, 2011 – Though recorded with professional equipment by capable engineers, it would be a stretch to call The West Salem Session a “studio” EP. Recorded live on a chilly Sunday afternoon in January 2011, with bassist Kyle’s modest living room temporarily transformed into a crowded recording space, The West Salem Session and the circumstances surrounding it are a far-cry from those of the critically-acclaimed Snake River Canyon, the ambitious album recorded just a year earlier at the prestigious Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville.
At the time of this recording, the track listing had yet to be finalized; only the purpose of the session had been decided. The band were to perform altered, stripped-down versions of songs from their three-album catalog, and a few new ones if time allowed. The result is what you hear: no overdubs, no instrument isolation, no reverb (well, maybe a little bit of reverb)- just the raw, organic sound of five musicians performing their songs in a room together, drums, amplifiers, acoustic guitar and all. Imperfections abound; amps buzz, the snare rattles from time to time, and Caleb fights through a cold to deliver his vocal lines without the safety net of “re-doing it later” upon which to rely. Yet therein lies the value of this recording. Naked, bare and unpolished, these 5 songs are an authentic and honest representation of the music this band has created, tranquil as these versions may be. If Snake River Canyon found its sonic stride in vast landscapes and mountaintops, The West Salem Session places its songs in the modest serenity of the foothills, stripping the tunes of their boldness to reveal certain vulnerability and vitality.
It’s not hard to hear echos of Springsteen’s Nebraska in Caleb’s harmonica during the opening moments of “Heat Lightnin’ Heat,” or the pastoral folk vibes of Neil Young’s Harvest in the new tunes, the lyrically grand narrative “The Storm, Your Beauty and Me” and the slow heartbreaker “12 Dead Roses.” And while the band have been performing a more lush incarnation of the pensively nostalgic “Red Bank Road” for more than a year, this version is the first time it’s been heard in a setting other than live shows.
Additionally, aside from a recent duet with Caitlin Cary, this session is the first time new additions lead guitarist Philip Pledger and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kossler have both appeared on a Bayonets record, and their contributions in the realm of reinterpreting and re-imagining the EP’s three older songs alone are worth a listen.
With more than a dozen new songs penned, the band are poised to turn both a mental and musical corner in the recording of their next full-length LP in the coming months. Even at this stage in the creative process, the newest songs have taken on a decidedly more modern approach in contrast to the alt-country beginnings with which the Bayonets had become synonymous. This short live EP, when looked back upon, may well serve as a place-holder, a documentation of the past chapters in Bayonets history coupled with anticipation of the new ones to be written. We hope you enjoy The West Salem Session, not for any of the things it’s not, but for all of the rewarding things that it is.
Recorded on 1.16.11 in the West Salem neighborhood of Winston-Salem, NC.
Produced by Stephen Russ and Caleb Caudle and the Bayonets.
Mixed and Engineered by Collin Derrick.
Mastered by Ryan Pritts at ¡El Guapo! Recorders in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Winston-Salem, NC.
All songs written and performed by Caleb Caudle and the Bayonets: Caleb Caudle (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar), Kyle Caudle (Bass, Backing Vocals), Chad Newsom (Drums, Backing Vocals), Philip Pledger (Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals) and Sam Kossler (Pedal Steel, Backing Vocals).