Since their debut record, Hit to Hurt, dropped in 2015, (buy the album at the link below) local folk rock group Devin Moses & the Saved have been pretty busy. Between performing at festivals (including Millvale Music Fest, the Main Stage at Deutschtown, and the Rock All Night Tour) and opening for acts such as Joan Shelley, The Commonheart, and Wreck Loose, they’ve worked hard to get their energetic, heartfelt brand of Americana out there. But performing isn’t all they’ve been up to. On Saturday, June 10th, the band will unveil their second album—a five-track self-titled EP—and mark the occasion with a release show in the Ballroom at James Street Gastropub. Safe to say, there’s plenty to celebrate.
This release sees DM&TS refining the authenticity and openness that characterizes both their songwriting and their performances. Each track—from its triumphant opener, “Decadence,” to its vulnerable, moody conclusion, “Wounded”—offers articulate reflection, wrapped in classic instrumental sounds that never feel tired. Well-layered guitar parts, rollicking keys, and skillful, driving percussion provide a pleasing sonic backbone. This highlights the distinctive vocals of Devin Moses Cox: low, passionate, and slightly drawling. Solid, engaging basslines, soulful violin solos, and the occasional added oomph of vocal harmonies are the final pieces of this down-home puzzle. Your Springsteen-loving parents will appreciate this record, but that doesn’t mean that it’s dated. Indeed, in the band’s own words, the EP was inspired by “human connections, communion, and the speed and fragility of living in the 21st century.” Devin Moses & the Saved charms with its familiarity, while impressing with just the right amount of unexpected twists, killer production, and precise lyricism. It’s both an engaging and comforting listen, something you’ll want to throw on in the car for many summertime drives ahead.
The band consists of Devin Moses Cox on acoustic guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals; Derek January on electric guitar, tambourine, and vocals; Nino Albanese on lead guitar, organ, and keys; Chris Trapagnier on bass and vocals; Scott Mervick on drums; and Julie Shepard on violin and vocals. The EP was recorded and produced at the Wilderness Recording Studio by Jay Vega, who also contributed keys for “Reply,” as well as occasional guitar parts. (Ryan Very played keys for the fourth track, “Sun Is Out.”)
“Decadence” is a great choice to open: a midtempo, energetic anthem for trusting your instincts and letting go of bullshit. Impassioned guitar riffs and impressively full percussion are the instrumental highlights here. The recurring refrain from Cox seems to invoke not only the spirit of this particular song, but a sentiment that the band wishes to evoke from its listeners in general: “Just burn the sound in your heart/and let you tear me apart.” The second track, “Sun Is Out,” picks up the pace. There’s a damn cool surf-rock vibe, with insistent keys, fun guitar riffs, and well-chosen vocal harmonies. But DM&TS mixes things up with an unexpected, minor-chord-heavy slowdown in the middle. This coincides with a change in lyrical address. During the upbeat portions, the singer is very self-focused: “I can’t stop wanting, the wanting I want/I’m absorbed by myself, cascading with thoughts/but oh-ohhhh, the sun is out.” Just after this line is when things shift, instrumentally and lyrically: “So what team, are you on, what’s your reaction?/Don’t you constantly enjoy the constant distraction?/Maybe you’re so free, you’re missing some action/But don’t get me wrong, I love satisfaction, satisfaction…” And then it picks back up again. This transition was a smart move, and well-executed. The band released a music video for the track, which can be found below or by clicking here.
“Reply” is a slower, swinging ballad, throughout which Shepard’s violin absolutely shines. Its high melodies not only provide that timeless folk sound, but serve as a great counterpart to Cox’s lower, melancholy-tinged vocals. He speaks from a frank place, with lines such as “I know I don’t want to die today/But I could die right now,” and “Every hour, every day, its you and I, and might/Every life, in every way/Well it happens all the time,” seeming to address the all-consuming, frustrating reality of dealing with life’s chaos. This mid-EP breather is nice, especially before we head into the rollicking fourth track, “Problem.” It wraps its honest, pained lyrics in peppy, upbeat packaging, which is a cool contrast. In one standout line, Cox sings, “Still, it’s so disconcerting/my ego is yearning for/some of that tranquil reprieve/See, my house is on fire/so full with desires/that I’m not about to believe.” The way the instruments come almost totally down before building to full power again around the halfway point takes this song up a notch. I always appreciate when bands know how (and when) to back off and rebuild, so this is a standout for me.
Finally, “Wounded” offers a slightly darker, moodier sound, showing the band’s versatility. Its message, however, is touching. The speaker is acknowledging someone else’s hurt and pain, showing that he’s felt it too (“So you’re flung apart, cut, wide open, for people’s eyes/Are you wounded? So am I,”), and then pleading with them to fight through it for the good that remains (“Savor you through every day, every day/So please stay/Please stay.”) In a way, it’s a parallel anthem to the first track, but this one celebrates the choice of love and life as opposed to self-centered ‘decadence.’ There’s even a rallying guitar solo towards the end, a fitting peak following the gradual rolls and builds through which the track progresses. It’s angst and hope in equal measure, which makes for a great closer.
In short, Devin Moses & the Saved is yet another example of the immense and varied songwriting talent that thrives here in Pittsburgh. If you’ve got any love at all for classic rock, folk, or are just looking for new additions to your summertime playlist, you’ll find plenty to like on this EP.
The release show kicks off on June 10th at 8 PM, with Different Places in Space opening. Devin Moses & the Saved come on at 9, and Detroit’s George Morris closes out the night at 10. Tickets are $10 each and include a copy of the EP with purchase. You can get those here or at the door. Check out the event page for more details. And keep up with the band on Facebook here.