The Walcotts: An explosion of roots-soul-blues

by McKenna Cardwell

Photo by Max Knight

L.A. based band The Walcotts are scheduled to release their first complete album titled Let The Devil Win Sept. 16 following their stop at The Green Frog here in Bellingham September 14.

After four years of writing, editing and recording the album’s 12 songs, witnessing the completed vinyl for the first time was like crossing a finish line for lead guitarist/vocalist Tom Cusimano. A fulfilling accomplishment to say the least, as well as the start of moving forward.

The Walcotts began from the ashes of a previous band that Cusimano started back in 2003, but has since been put to bed and therefore remains unnamed.

“Having something end like that is a bit like having a failed relationship where you wonder if you’re ever going to be able to date again,” Cusimano said. “I had tried so long and so hard with that first band. Failing can sometimes make you jaded and cautious, but it also gives you a little extra fire in your belly which is something I didn’t have the first time around.”

Disheartened from the experience, Cusimano took some time away from band life. Taking odd jobs here and there as well as playing acoustic pieces with The Walcotts violinist Devin Shea, a member from the previous band.

This sort of life in limbo continued until April 2012 when longtime friend and Walcotts drummer Jim Olson visited Cusimano in San Diego to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. After the concert, the two spent time in a studio and walked out with four songs nearly completed.

“Months later I received a call for opening gig…so I got this unnamed entity of a band approved for the show,” Cusimano said.

The band haphazardly thrown together and named after The Band’s song “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” used the four songs he and Olson created in addition to a few cover songs for their set list and performed the gig. Afterwards, Cusimano shared the new music with some friends in the music business who put them into two TV shows and one movie and all of the sudden The Walcotts were making a profit.

“We kept in that pattern, booking better gigs, recording more music and playing more shows over and over, so we thought that we must have something here,” Cusimano said.

The addition of vocalist Laura Marion who can “harmonize with a hiccup” to Cusimano, Olson and Shea completed the band’s core musicians. Although The Walcotts are known for their live performances that can reach up to nine players at a time, with upwards of 24 different musicians contributing to the new album.

Let the Devil Win was worked on a little at a time in two different recording studios including the historical Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The album features their fun as well as mature sound, that blends folky rock vibes with jazzy sax solos to create a take on Americana music that is truly their own.

The success of The Walcotts has been a rewarding and welcome change of pace for Cusimano who is still all too aware of the unfavorable success rate of the music industry.

“I question whether or not we will ever turn that corner, and if we do will we even know what that corner is?” Cusimano said. “There is so much music and so many bands and genres now, and no approach is tried and true. It’s a wild west scenario out there where you just don’t know.”

However the uncertainty of this industry doesn’t hinder the driving passion and love of making music that resonates throughout the band.

“It’s my job as a performer to just sweat and make the audience know that I truly believe in what I’m singing,” Cusimano said. “When people digest it and believe and feel that they’re not alone, it’s that sense of community that makes music what it is.”

LIVE SHOW: Catch The Walcotts at The Green Frog on Sept. 14 with King Radio. See thewalcottsmusic.com.