- The music produced by Boise-based band Thistledown is always easy on the ears.
As botany students and gardening enthusiasts will know, thistledown is the soft stuff you find on the seeds of thistle flowers. It allows the seeds to get swept up by the wind and propagate. The down is also used in sewing and for making candle wicks.
It’s a fitting name for the local folk-blues group Thistledown, whose live shows always have an agreeable breeziness. When you wander into a place like Pengilly’s and see the band’s five members playing, it doesn’t quite feel like a performance. It’s more like going over to a friend’s house and finding a bunch of people jamming in the living room.
The most charming aspect of Thistledown’s self-titled debut EP (self-released, 2017) is the way that it captures the group’s mellow, down-to-earth vibe; All five tracks are as smooth and warm as a shot of good bourbon.
Of course, making good bourbon takes skill and experience, and Thistledown has plenty of both. Lee Penn Sky has put out albums under his own name and played both as a solo performer and with The Oliphants for several years. Neal Goldberg fronts his own band and gigs with others regularly. Heather Meuleman (formerly Roberts) played fiddle for Portland, Oregon-based group The Jackalope Saints and organized folk-centric shows around Boise under the name Ten Gallon Cat. Last but not least, Thistledown’s rhythm section—bassist Troy Ferguson and djembe player Bennett Barr—has worked with a variety of local acts, including Ben Burdick and StoneSeed.
Each member gets a chance to shine on the new EP. Ferguson and Barr keep the songs moving at a steady pace while Goldberg’s guitar and Meuleman’s violin trade fluid, inventive solos throughout. “One in a Million” and “Baker” provide showcases for Penn Sky’s gruff, charming baritone and rough-hewn lyrics. On the bluesy shuffle “Take Me for Granted,” Goldberg’s insouciant croon serves as the perfect vehicle for some old-school cheating woman put-downs. Meuleman’s sultry vocals almost steal the show, delivering gorgeous harmonies on “Take Me for Granted” and taking the lead on the gospel-tinged “To the Sea” and the hard-boiled crime tale “Sank Into the Night.”
Ultimately, it’s the way these pieces fit together that carries Thistledown along and will help the new EP blossom all across the Treasure Valley.