It’s been a long time since the release of 2004’s “Stay Poor Stay Happy”, the last full-length album from Cub County and a lot has changed for front man Jeremy Chatelain. The past four years have taken Chatelain and his music from the tree-filled skyline of Chapel Hill, NC to the ocean expanses of Seattle, WA and finally back to the mountain-town of Salt Lake City, UT; each town painting the latest Cub Country long-player, “Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile” with it’s image.
Formed in 1999 as a side project for then Jets to Brazil bassist Jeremy Chatelain, Cub Country has always been a highly collective effort. With Jeremy at the helm penning and singing the songs, a rotating cast of characters from every locale Chatelain has resided traditionally rounds out the band’s sound. The newest release uses the same formula and features the talents of current band mates Matt Montaigu on drums, Mike McCaleb on bass, Wim Becker on guitar, Kathryne Youkstetter on vocals, and Brent Dreiling playing the pedal steel; as well as the return of veteran Cub guitarists Chris Traynor and Jeff Clarke.
“Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile”, Cub Country’s fifth release was recorded in various homes and studios in the “magic four”: Salt Lake City, Seattle, NYC, and Chapel Hill. The tracks were then completed and mixed by SLC legend Andy Patterson at the secretive Boar’s Nest studios in Summer 2008.
Slated for US release in Spring 2009 on San Francisco’s Future Farmer Records, the album marks a slight departure from the Americana/Alt country sound of the band’s earlier recordings all the while staying true to the sound Cub Country has developed over the last 9 years. Featuring a few less ballads and a few more guitar solos, “Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile” (a Kerouac quip) is a true classic Rock and Roll album. From the opening feedback of “On Yer Own” to the quiet piano chords of “The Stars Drip Down”, Chatelain and crew run the gamut of rock sentiment. With couplets like “Why would you leave your friends and family / And dig up the roots of this weak little tree?” the songs on the album read almost like an autobiography of Chatelain’s life over the past few years. Pensive and nostalgic, they are very much about the struggles and joy that accompany a life in music and the ghosts left behind in a career on the road.
Complete with beautifully bizarre tie-dye meets animal-landscape cover art by Austin, TX resident Adde Russell, “Stretch” is another Cub Country puzzle made whole by the many long-distance pieces in Chatelain’s game.
Like Chatelain sings to a lost friend, “Over time you seem to disappear / you hang out in bars with a phone in your ear / and who cares for the stories you tell / when the language you use has all changed as well”, Cub Country remains elusive and ever changing.