June 9th sees the release of The Deslondes’ self-titled debut on New West. The record may the debut from The Deslondes, but these five are old hands in the New Orleans music scene. Guitarist/singer Sam Doores has toured with Alabama Shakes, and both he and (upright) bassist/singer Dan Cutler were in another popular New Orleans band, Hurray For the Riff Raff.
Before digging into the album’s music, it’s worth noting that what makes The Deslondes unique is the deeply collaborative nature of the project. Four of The Deslondes’ five members sing on the album, and all five write songs for the band.
This is not a new focus. Before The Deslondes became The Deslondes, they performed as The Tumbleweeds. When the group learned they shared a name with a Dutch band from the ’70s, they needed to change their name. After some deliberation, the boys ended up with Sam Doores + Riley Downing & The Tumbleweeds and even released a record, Holy Cross Blues, under the name. The band changed its name again—this time to The Deslondes—when percussionist/vocalist Cameron Snyder joined. The name was chosen for a street in New Orleans that many of the members lived on. Though the first name change was a legal necessity, the band’s choice of name on both occasions speaks to that collaborative nature.
As if to embody the collective ideal they put forward, the video for “The Real Deal,” one of The Deslondes’ standout tracks features Sam Doores and Riley Downing sharing a microphone as they sing. The song is more rocking than many of the other tracks on the record, but maintains a the country vibe. The Deslondes play a brand of country that, as NPR’s Jewly Hight put it, “never parted ways with [Woody] Guthrie’s populist strains of folk.” The band’s connection to those roots come through in their cover of Joe Tex’s “Yum Yum,” a non-album track they have performed live and which was featured by The Bluegrass Situation.
Though the band’s self-titled record is technically their debut, The Deslondes have created an album with a fully-formed sound, thanks in no small part to their experience in New Orleans. They are deeply indebted to American roots music, but play a refreshing, unique brand of it. For anyone looking for a break from synthesizers, The Deslondes may just be your summer jam.