Sometimes it helps to be social — just ask the members of Portland’s Old Light. As a frequent patron of a local coffee shop, songwriter Garth Steel Klippert made a habit of bringing touring musician friends into the cafe. Barista Charlie Hester recognized the pattern and asked whether Klippert, too, was a player.
Klippert gave Hester a demo and was pleasantly surprised when, days later, Hester called to say he’d booked a show for them and they needed to start practicing. After adding Todd Roper (drums) and Patrick Finn (bass) to round out the lineup, the band started gigging and recording. The result is “The Dirty Future,” 12 songs of iridescent pop, rock and country.
“The Dirty Future” begins with a driving acoustic number offset by layered, falsetto vocals that create a yodeling effect. This is followed by the jangly country pop of “Disappear,” which features one of Klippert’s primary instruments, the autoharp, also layered for shimmering texture. “Magnetar” is retro alterna-pop reminiscent of the Beta Band and distinguished by Klippert and Hester’s harmonies. “Old Man,” a straight-up chunk of classic Southern rock, could fit nicely on an album by Mountain or 38 Special.
There are a few of these moments where the band switches gears to incorporate somewhat disparate influences. At times they morph into a full-on rock outfit as on “Pretty Machete,” which promises to be a live set scorcher. More interesting are the instrumentals such as “Hawk in Hand,” “Something for Nothing” and “Noirion,” which range from further autoharp explorations to jazzy and bass-heavy grooves. Mike Coykendall, another patron of the coffee shop, helped to mix the album. Yet another reminder to be friendly: You never know who’s paying attention.