There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
For a lot of musicians, it’s just a mathematical impossibility to be in it for the money—and the Silos have been in it since the Reagan administration. Those two facts might explain the wisdom handed from father to son on “Whistled a Slow Waltz,” the second track on the roots trio’s new When the Telephone Rings: “Some years you’re flush/But it’s never as good/As you think it will be/Other years you’re broke/But it’s never as bad/As you think it will be.” Though the album is more a grab bag than a unified statement, similar notions of acceptance seep into several tracks—and not just because New York–based chief songwriter Walter Salas-Humara teams with haikuist Basho (a “17th century Japanese zen lunatic,” according the band’s Web site) for the title track. No, this indie-then-major-then-indie-again guy seems to have just as many monetary worries as metaphysical ones, though they probably don’t bug him as much as they should. Fuzzy-twangy set-opener “The Only Love,” for example, mines a love-conquers-Volvos vein, and “Innocent” rattles off a list of people who “don’t owe you a thing”: your boss, your wife, your kids. The chorus, naturally, goes, “Keep your heart innocent of your world,” a bit of advice Salas-Humara drives home by writing a song about the simple pleasures of chilling out, composing music, and sharing a pipe (“Take a Hit”) and then using a snippet of someone’s kid’s school choir for the ramshackle coda: “Dancing along/With your held high/Holding on to liii-iiife!” But Salas-Humara’s resigned-regular-Joe attitude also hamstrings Telephone. By and large, the music has its charms—the extra oomph Victoria Williams sound-alike Amy Allison adds to the vocal mix on several tracks, Mary Rowell’s sad violin on “The First Move,” the plangent lap-steel guitar on the title track. But you get the feeling they result more from the almost-accidental textures of thoughtful instrumentation than the often over-restrained writing. The album is skillfully played and emotionally rich enough to prevent any outright failures, but its successes tend to be so modest they leave you doing something Salas-Humara seems to have given up on: wanting more.—Joe Dempsey