Band photo By Sara Lacroix
If (like me) you’re not particularly sports-inclined, the name of Dan Getkin’s rock/alt-country five-piece band might throw you for a loop. In baseball, a “twelve-six” refers to an effective curveball pitch. It’s tricky; a throw that takes some skill and practice to even attempt, much less master.
In multiple ways, this proves to be a fitting reference. On their new album Feeling Good About the End Times (which drops October 5th), Dan Getkin and the Twelve Six epitomize both the classic Americana of this national pastime and the talent it takes to produce something special. A release show is planned for the same night at Allegheny Elks Lodge, with openers Angela Autumn and Andre Costello.
The band occupies the territory between rock, country, and folk/singer-songwriter. The story-telling tendencies of the latter two genres are skillfully blended with the instrumental focus and song structure of the former. Foot-tapping beats and killer, unapologetic guitar lines share space with gorgeous pedal-steel twang and classic wavering keys. Energetic, dance-friendly numbers are well-balanced with slower, moodier tracks.
The result is warm and welcoming—a little old-fashioned and damn fun. It’s a natural progression from their self-titled debut (which I previously covered here.) If you’re a fan of local bands like Bindley Hardware Company and Ferdinand the Bull, or larger acts like Ryan Adams, chances are you’ll dig the Twelve Six.
Lyrically, Feeling Good About the End Times explores themes of faith vs. doubt, health vs. illness, strength vs. weakness, and past vs. present. (The only “love song” in the bunch, a duet with Lauren DeLorenze, questions whether the speaker is too old for them.) Internal changes are grappled with in the context of a changing world, neither of which come easily. It’s a questioning, reflective album, one that’s about exploration as much as (if not more than) expression.
As introspective as this record gets, collaborations with several guest musicians help take it to the next level. The core group (consisting of Dan Getkin on lead vocals and guitar; Alex Herd on bass, guitar, vocals, and production; Eddan Sparks on drums; Bill Brandt on lead guitar; and Jake Troxell on piano/organ) brings in a stacked lineup of local talent to join them. The Commonheart’s Mike Minda and Wreck Loose’s Nathan Zoob both contribute guitar parts, while Read Connolly provides pedal steel. Lauren DeLorenze lends her pretty, soulful voice to “Strong Words” and “Too Old for Love Songs,” the latter of which she co-wrote. Molly Alphabet, Elliott Sussman, and Tim Good all contribute vocals as well. Trish Imbrogno plays double bass on “Born to Be,” and Abby Gross and Nate Insko provide tenor sax and trumpet on the album’s title track. These features add dimension and excitement wherever they appear.
It helps that Getkin provides a strong foundation with skillful songwriting. He knows how to tell a story, intertwining vivid images (“I was walking ‘cross a bridge and I looked down/I am the muddy river and it’s turning brown/That’s who I was born to be”); humorous quips (“You want to clear out the bar, what do you do?/Here’s a bona fide tip, it’s tried and true/Go to the jukebox and play Sweet Caroline then play it/ten more times”); and vulnerable questions (“Maybe we’ll weather this moment and laugh/How do you look back when the darkness won’t pass?”) This gift for engaging narrative is especially important in these genres.
There’s a real down-to-earth quality in Getkin’s voice. It’s lower, a little old-fashioned, and almost conversational—he’s talking right to you, with no pretension or loftiness. This enhances the authenticity and vulnerability of what he’s saying. He comes off as the kind of guy you could grab a drink with (maybe, as the rollicking first track suggests, at the Ivy Inn.)
Occasionally, this veered a little too much on the lackadaisical side. Like in the eighth track, “Strange Magic,” during which his whispery, higher tone is barely audible over the energetic, almost anthemic, classic rock instrumentation. “How Can You?” also brings a lot to the table instrumentally, including a high, resonant glockenspiel line and Zoob’s pleading, moody guitar riffs. But Getkin’s voice turns high and quivering again during the chorus. This isn’t out of character with the anxious/melancholy mood of the song, which features lines like: “I keep the damage where nobody can find it/And when it’s hidden away, no one minds/A roll of film that no one’s anxious to see/But if the pictures got out, would anyone ask me?” However, he’s more successful when he brings strength and power to the high end of his range, and leans into the warmth of its low end. This is showcased beautifully in the sparse, heartfelt album closer, “Young Men and Fire,” which also appeared on their previous release.
Not to diminish the contributions of the rest of the Twelve Six—they’re a well-oiled machine. Troxell’s parts on piano (and organ) are crucial to the classic appeal of the group’s sound. They have a delightful back-and-forth with guitar lines from Brandt, Herd, and Getkin, which themselves range from soft intricate fingerpicking to triumphant power chords and searing riffs. And Sparks’ dynamic percussion particularly shines in its explosive, cymbal-heavy moments. Some of the best examples of all of these can be found in the emphatic, heavy-hitting sixth song, “Heaven Knows.” Other standouts include “At the Ivy Inn” (the first, and fastest, track on the record) and “Strong Words” (which features beautiful pedal steel from Connolly, clustered vocal harmonies, and bittersweetly descending melodies.)
The dichotomy in the album’s title often comes through in the songs themselves, too: animated, upbeat instruments surround lyrics about tough, painful topics. Examples include the Jackson-Browne-esque “Born to Be” and “Heaven Knows.”
But there’s a kind of beauty in that. Growth doesn’t happen without discomfort, even destruction. That doesn’t mean that joy and fun and meaning can’t be found in that process too. Anxiety and uncertainty are featured heavily, such as in this line from the title track: “The godfearing trust and follow a plan/But when I shiver and shake, I don’t think that I can.”
But even the vulnerability in singing about these things and sharing them is a way to fight against them. Having good people surrounding you (as Getkin does with both his bandmates and stacked lineup of collaborators) is crucial. The creation of this record may have helped its musicians feel better about the end times—with any luck, listening to it will help you, too. (See for yourself now: you can preview the first single below, or by clicking here.)
Feeling Good About the End Times will be available on Bandcamp and most other major streaming/download platforms on October 5th. The release show is happening the same night at Allegheny Elks Lodge #339 in the North Side. Andre Costello and Angela Autumn will be opening things up. Many of the album’s featured musicians will be there to play their parts live, along with other special guests. Tickets are $10 at the door (cash only) and $10-$15 in advance, with the pricier option getting you a discounted CD at the show. Both options include a free, instant digital album download. Doors open at 7:30 PM, with Andre kicking things off at 8. Attendees under 21 should be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or of-age escort. You can buy tickets here and check out the Facebook event page here. Follow along with the Twelve Six directly here.