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Rose’s Pawn Shop Rises With 'Gravity Well'

Courtesy photo

When the members of California’s Rose’s Pawn Shop sat down to make their new album, Gravity Well, they decided to work, for the second time in their career, with an outside producer. This time it was Ted Hutt, a man who had worked in the past with bands such as Gaslight Anthem.

Rose’s Pawn Shop guitarist Paul Givant says he couldn’t be happier with that decision.

“He was really hands on and had a long of strong opinions," he says. "We actually appreciated that. It helped us sculpt the record in a way that we weren’t really able to in the past.”

Hutt wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when he felt that material or performances weren’t up to par. As guitarist John Kraus explains:

“At one point I wanted to do a guitar take on something and he keeps asking, through the talkback microphone, ‘Are you playing guitar with gloves on right now?’”

In the end, Givant says that Hutt’s involvement helped the group hone its style to fine a point.

“In the past Rose’s Pawn Shop has suffered a little bit from wearing too many influences on our sleeve," he says. "We kind of pull from a lot of different styles and different musical backgrounds. Folk and Celtic and bluegrass and punk and it’s all kind of in a blender, which has been cool. I think our past records lacked a bit of cohesiveness.”

Hutt encouraged Givant to work on a few songs that the songwriter didn’t initially think were appropriate to the band, including the album’s title tune.

“There was a few songs I just kind of had in my back pocket," Givant says. "I didn’t necessarily even see them as Rose’s Pawn Shop songs. But I showed it to Ted and we were actually able to pull it together in a way that made sense.”

Another song, “Stay All Night,” wasn’t in the early running as the band initially thought it was too pop oriented.

Still, another, “Country Blues,” popularized by Doc Boggs, brought the band other surprises. It serves as a good example of the outfit’s disparate influences.

“There’s just something about that song," Givant explains. "It’s so dark. It’s almost an Americana, gothic folk song. It’s got these really dark themes. It almost sounds like a work song at times, there’s a lot of chanting and stuff going on in the background.”

It also fits comfortably between genres in a way that suits the group’s growing reputation on the festival circuit.

“There’s a lot of music that touches on each other, like the Americana, the folk rock, and the jam and the country, and bluegrass," he says. "All of those musics are kind of in a similar kind of ballpark. Fans of those musics tend to overlap so a festival is a good place for them to get together, check out bands that they weren’t exposed to earlier and see some of the bands that they love.”

Rose’s Pawn Shop performs Thursday night at Rock Island Live, the band’s latest release, Gravity Well, is out now.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.