San Francisco's El Capitan started as a fledgling folk trio in June of 2003, with Ryan Henry (Hills Have Eyes, Hopelifter, Tuolumne County et-al), Chris Connolly (DC, ingenious guitar tone extractor, savant lap steeler/harp blower/banjy picker), and Ryan Honaker (SLC, Gift Anon, aything with strings or keys - his parents are in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Chrissakes) pulling acoustic sessions in Honaker's Mission flat kitchen and Henry's Cedarsonic recording studio. The nights consisted of intaking finer tonics while working out arrangements and harmonies, with the goal of better dynamics through chemistry and the addition of volume to the eventual fold. With the songs becoming too cramped for the kitchen (and the natural sonic limits of fiddles, banjos, and acoustic guitars), Henry invited his drummer pal and Hills co-alum Matt Butler to add some rhythm to the mix. A couple practice spaces later (one shared by a homeless dude), a run-in with a strangely-alluring female mandolin peddler, and with the addition of Dave Kearney on bass (rhythm master for various dub/jazz all-star ensembles), El Capitan was as it is: all-melody, all-hook, a mixture of rickety hymnals and thick sonics, old-timey and post-country, loud, silent, and dubby as all get-out. Their first EP, 'Atwater KNEC,' was recorded to one-inch Ampex 456 by Bart Thurber at the legendary House of Faith, Oakland, CA. It's out now on Brick and Mortar Music. REVIEWS: 'Spooky California mountain music--nice guitar work and harmonies from the New Folk generation' -San Francisco Folk Festival 'El Capitan manages to offer something fresh, making you smell pine and hear cicadas just beyond the reach of your speakers-rocking with a smiling abandon that you can¹t help find infectious. Atwater KNEC is intimate, joyous-even when it¹s sad. There's an undeniable authenticity in the creaky arrangements.' - Copper Press 'El Capitan's debut EP, Atwater KNEC, introduces listeners to a formidable new band in the rustic Americana genre. Like many bands, from Cowboy Junkies to Palace to Norfolk & Western, El Capitan taps into a rich electric/rural aesthetic vein tracing back at least to the music of the Band - gorgeous vocal harmonies, dobro, banjo, and traditional song structures carried by strong writing and well-versed playing. Ryan Henry's gravely voice follows a weaving fiddle part on the opener, 'The Woodcutter Hymnal', which ends with a low, sustained decay. 'Blue Tick' has a more uptempo, poppy feel, leaning more towards Son Volt than Townes Van Zandt. 'Yaney Street', arguably the strongest track on Atwater KNEC, opens with Henry's vocal backed by a single shimmering guitar before working into a sway propelled by intricate, yet unobtrusive drums and rich backing vocals. 'Kildevil' and 'Yellowpine Blues' take on more somber, mournful tones evoking more of a sonic dustbowl than a teeming backwood. Multi-instrumentalist Christopher Connolly shares lead vocal duties with Henry on the expansive closing ballad, 'Red Giant', which is nicely sprinkled with xylophone-like keyboard tones and layered on softly overdriven guitar. Atwater KNEC is an altogether impressive debut from yet another talented young band invested in carrying forward traditional American music.' - Bluemag 'Picture yourself sitting in a log cabin in the middle of a pine covered forest. Maybe it is the Sierra Nevada mountain range in northeastern California. Maybe one of your ancestors and some friends with a bunch of tools you might find at a scary antique store today built the cabin by hand. Panning for gold, or hunting mountain lions probably funded the cabin. Whatever the job was, somebody with overalls was involved. You shun electricity and the complicated life of the city. You are alone, but you are happy to be alone. You enjoy wearing flannel shirts, like a lumberjack, the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival or possibly Mike Watt. You are eating pancakes with a lot of syrup on them, maybe way too much syrup. When you were making these pancakes you couldn¹t decide if you wanted to refer to them as pancakes or flap jacks. It is possible that there are suspenders somewhere in the cabin. Most likely you have not shaven in some time and have the raw beard of a rugged outdoorsman. The air is dry and somewhat dusty on a summer morning. You know that you enjoy country-tinged emo, and punk exemplified by bands like Wilco and Hot Water Music, but instead you have decided to play El Capitan because it makes you think of your surroundings, and vice versa. And besides, El Capitan just sounds good to you.' - Wyatt Lee, SLAP Magazine 'Relaxed without ever tumbling into lethargy, the introspective alt-country collaboration between guitarists Ryan Henry and Christopher Connolly works as both eclectic string symposium (the banjo-buffered 'Yellowpine Blues') and pure pop ('Yaney Street').' - Seattle Weekly 'There's nothing flip about El Capitan, whose amber melodies, ebullient harmonies, and soothing aesthetic place their music more on open ranges than city sidewalks. Their 2004 release, Atwater KNEC, moves at the pace of a desert sunset, with Ryan Henry's slightly graveled vocals accented by the softer sounds of piano, lap steel, strings, banjo, and even spoons.' - Jennifer Maerz, The Stranger.
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