21st Century Music: Heartless Bastards
21st Century Music postings are focused on artists that have released all their music since the year 2000. These are shorter entries and playlists intended to highlight newer acts that may be of interest to readers that enjoy the older music that is the focus of Ceremony. Listen to the playlist by clicking on the streaming service of your choice.
I learned of Heartless Bastards when they appeared on Late Night with David Letterman (included in the YouTube playlist) in 2009, playing a fantastic performance of “Out at Sea” (there’s an energy and abandon in this version that is lacking in the studio version). I quickly dove into their first three albums and fell in love with Erika Wennerstrom’s voice, guitar work, and ability to create fantastic mid-tempo, blues-laced tunes. Ranging occasionally into harder rock or slowing it down into moody ballads, Erika’s voice always makes the songs sound edgy and alternative. Her ability to deliver strong melodies is well established over their five albums.
The band was originally a quartet out of Cincinnati, and then was reconfigured as a trio with Erika as the only consistent member. They signed with Fat Possum Records after being recommended by Patrick Carney from The Black Keys. The band name came from a response to a question in a barroom trivia game on Tom Petty’s band name, offering ‘Tom Petty and The Heartless Bastards’ as a misleading multiple-choice option.
The band was reconfigured again in 2008 and relocated from Ohio to Austin before releasing the third album, again as a quartet around Erika. This time talented guitarist Mark Nathan came on board and took on much of the guitar work. This four-piece line-up has continued to this day. I’ve seen them a few times in concert now and they’re fantastic (I’ve included several live takes on the YouTube playlist to give a taste).
Erika has just released her first solo album, Sweet Unknown, and is on tour promoting it. Bassist Jesse Ebaugh has also released a solo album, The Tender Things. Therefore, we haven’t seen new music from Heartless Bastards in a few years and I imagine it will be a couple more before we do. In the meantime, enjoy this playlist and check out the very solid five albums they’re provided so far. There aren’t too many duds on these albums, they are enjoyable listens from start to finish. Heartless Bastards are testimony that guitar rock, while retrograde in these modern music times, isn’t dead yet.
- New Resolution \ Stairs and Elevators (2005)
- Pass and Fail \ Stairs and Elevators (2005)
- Brazen \ All this Time (2006)
- Blue Day \ All this Time (2006)
- Out at Sea \ The Mountain (2009)
- Sway \ The Mountain (2009)
- Got to Have Rock and Roll \ Arrow (2012)
- Only for You \ Arrow (2012)
- Black Cloud \ Restless Ones (2015)
- The Fool \ Restless Ones (2015)