Bow Thayer is still searching for his wider audience. When you live in the mountains of central Vermont, it can be hard to find. But being a songwriting musician in relative isolation has its perks - Bow has been able to dedicate his professional life to making music, and he has the time and a self-built studio, The Woodshed, to make a lot of it. Since the 2018 release of Better Version of the Truth, his last album to feature bass protege Alex Abraham, who passed away suddenly, Bow has moved forward by doing what he knows - writing songs on various hybrid stringed instruments. Over the course of the pandemic he has put out seven singles and six improvised “Soundpaintings" from his Choirs of Aether project, released a double album with his old timey, non-traditional string band The Benders, and co-written an album under the name Beau Bow de Lune, out March 5, 2021, with in-demand guitarist Val McCallum (Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Gregg Allman).
Bow’s newest solo record, The Zen of Snug, was written during this same time, and explores pressing questions many of us have, such as how to find togetherness in this time of great division, and how to survive an encounter with a concealed snake. It also serves as the best representation of Bow’s entire twenty five years of making music in Vermont, blending elements of Appalachia, blues, cosmic americana and progressive rock to form a sound that is now uniquely his own. Backed by his longtime drummer Jeff Berlin and bassist Jeremy Dryden, and with signature contributions from Val on guitar/vocals, Dana Colley (Morphine) on sax, and Chris McGandy (Perfect Trainwreck) on pedal steel, Bow has made a poignant album with his longtime production partner, three-time Grammy Award winner Justin Guip (Levon Helm, Larry Campbell, Hot Tuna), that needs to be heard.
Bow provides some insight into the album’s subject matter:
Everyone is aware of this enduring question: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” So it makes me wonder, if someone is totally unaware of the COVID-19 virus, can they get it? As humans, we are the ultimate creators - it's what we do. Have we inflicted this worldwide hysteria upon ourselves? It is hard to grasp that millions have been diagnosed and many have died from this pandemic. But the origins of its source are not publicly known, with some refusing to believe it exists at all (even as they lay dying in a hospital bed). The same can be said for climate change, systemic racism, hunger, poverty, elitism...the list goes on and on.
This is the age of instant information and constant communication, but the answers to the biggest and most important questions still elude us. Like for instance, why are we here? It makes me consider that we are ALL staring directly into the wellspring of our problems, enveloped by info-screens that just churn out an infinite stream of dis-ease. Is this the source of our problems? Are the current global calamities being inflicted on us by evil actors, ourselves or just the organic flow of our consciousness unfolding? The songs on this album were born from this question.
“Earthling” opens with a call to duty for an evolved youth. If the elders can guide them towards nature, then this planet just may have a chance. “A Balm in Las Vegas” fantasizes of the future city being a vortex or a place of healing rather than the empire of iniquity it is billed as today. “A Small Eternity” was written for a very special human who vibrated dialect in prose, tone and general outsider philosophy, who actually inhabited the namesake “Snug”. “Race to Lose” asks, why have your eyes on the prize when the game is gonna kill ya? We all want the same thing: to be happy and to be loved. Humans run into trouble when they don't get what they want. Will “This Thing Called God” deliver the goods? The wisdom of the feminine has been suppressed for far too long. “Elinore” is a love song for a goddess. Then onto another psychedelic anthem that assures us that where we come from, “You Are Not Unknown”. Most modern houses have a window into “The Panic Room”. The media sucks us in and serves us an abundant buffet for us the feed upon. Just be careful what you eat. The serpent has been a big part of the story since the beginning; I think he has gotten a bad rap. Here “Mr. Timber Rattler” gets to hear a true story about being caught on the wrong side of authority. There certainly is a weight pressing down on us all. Are the “Sins Of Man” a fate bestowed upon us for our failures as a species, or a lesson to behold in achieving a higher state of being? This brings us “Back to the Source.” Even if this game beats the crap out of you and you can barely limp off the field, you finally come to realize it doesn't matter. You always end on the high note, and you will be back.
Thanks for listening
All songs written by Bow Thayer (Elbop Music (SESAC)) © 2021
Produced and arranged by Bow Thayer and Justin Guip
Mixed by Justin Guip at Milan Hill Studio, Red Hook NY
Mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering, Nashville TN
Bow Thayer - vocals, banjos, guitars, mandolin, bojos, bass, synth, organ, Fender Rhodes, percussion (recorded at The Woodshed, Stockbridge VT)
Jeff Berlin - drums, percussion (recorded at Chateau Berlin, Barnard VT and The Woodshed, Stockbridge VT)
Jeremy Dryden - electric and acoustic bass (recorded at Peddles Productions, Somerville MA)
Val McCallum - electric guitars, vocals (recorded at Vamps Laboratories, Los Angeles CA)
Chris McGandy - pedal steel guitar (recorded at Spirit Goat West, Petaluma CA)
Dana Colley - saxophones and penny whistle (recorded at Third Floor Music, East Somerville MA)
Cover photo by Vincent Freeman
Layout by Margo Strauss