Not much can overcome the Savannah heat in July, but Widowspeak's songs carry with them an early change of season.
The Brooklyn-based band left the big city to record its latest album, "Almanac," in a 100-year-old barn in New York's Hudson Valley. The recording session lasted from late summer into fall, and Widowspeak seems to channel the shifting seasons and the passage of time.
"Perennials," the first track on "Almanac," begins with the line, "I'm afraid that nothing lasts, nothing lasts long enough."
Despite this, the band is influenced by '60s and '70s rock 'n' roll, folk and surf, and choosing to record in an antique barn certainly shows they're not afraid of embracing the past.
At first, it's a little disconcerting to hear music without the familiar over-refinement of modern production, where super-soundproofed walls shush every echo and computers erase any lingering hint of the environment.
But the rustic setting and the natural quality of the production seem the only way to capture Widowspeak's music. It also offers a good sense of what one can expect at a live show.
Widowspeak consists of singer/instrumentalist Molly Hamilton, a dreamy-eyed, understated performer, and Robert Earl Thomas, a multi-instrumentalist whose tall, gaunt frame and scraggly beard make him look more like the resident of a hill town than a rock 'n' roller. The two of them could make a youthful, modern version of American Gothic. Some of this image is cultivated.
"We didn't want to have a city feel," said Hamilton of the pair's most recent album.
Hamilton sings with a breathy tone that comes from the back of her throat, rasping delicately on the deepest syllables. She rarely raises the volume above speaking level, which imbues the music with a lazy lilt, a reluctance to move, somehow appropriate for the July heat.
The band's sparse instrumentation often creates a desert-like desolation. It's not a scorched or lonely sound, but isolated, a cool breeze across the sand at sunset.
Thomas prefers a minimalist approach in his performances, using space as much as sound to create songs.
Most of the band's repertoire is made up of even, mellow melodies, and the moments of increased energy are that much more effective because of it. They don't rely on the typical, perhaps stereotypical, structure of most modern pop songs, choosing instead to let their energy simmer throughout.
Hamilton said their performances are "a lot more moody, dreamy and subdued."
Widowspeak recorded "Almanac" with a five-piece band, but it's just the two of them performing in Savannah. While the full band adds forward motion, shifts the sound away from folky Americana toward legitimate rock 'n' roll, Hamilton and Thomas seem most comfortable with their pared-down, hazy duo arrangements, a style developed on the self-titled debut album.
"Even though we have a full band," Thomas said, "We're still in a duo mentality."
Hamilton added, "We write songs as a duo, and build from there with the full band."
Whether it's two pieces, five or somewhere in between, Widowspeak is a band calmly capturing the flow of time in its music. On July 8 at The Sparetime, expect them to deliver a soft, steady performance, and don't be surprised if the evening heat is broken by an early autumn breeze.
IF YOU GO
When: 9 p.m. July 8
Where: The Sparetime, 36 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Info: sparetimesavannah.com, www.facebook.com/widowspeakband