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Bellwether Breaks is 'Headed Home' on new retro rock EP


The Rochester quintet Bellwether Breaks fills a niche that so many local singer-songwriters, progressive rock bands, and folk-Americana acts cannot. A retro rock band subtly indebted to blues and country music, Bellwether Breaks demonstrates its appeal with its debut EP “Headed Home,” one of the more refreshing local releases I’ve heard in a long time.

Vocalist Elyse Gayann has a lot to do with it. Her earthy tone is rooted in rock ‘n’ roll, but she can soar at all the right moments. Her charisma and melodic integrity sell the songs, but the instrumental details give the music a vintage flavor that makes it distinctive.

Take the flute-like tones from keyboardist Chris Coon on “The Oracle,” as he channels the late-’60s Mellotron. They are wistful, slightly psychedelic, and transportive. When paired with Eugene Bisdikian’s breezy bass-playing, you’ve got a throwback ballad with serious summer island vibes.

The title track features Coon prominently again, this time with a Hammond organ hook that recalls The Kingsmen’s indelible classic “Louie Louie.” Peter Goebel’s steady guitar helps to keep the sound rhythmically grounded, while Gayann sings with a soulful optimism, “I got a ways to go, but I’m headed home.”

“Blow the Roof Off” feels like it would make a better opening statement than the conclusion it is, particularly with the tone-setting lyrics “Got no time for suckers, I’m a fixer-upper/ Got a ship to sink.” But as the sound sinks in — gritty country guitar meets bluesy keyboards reminiscent of The Animals — the question of where the song appears on the EP seems suddenly irrelevant.

With “Headed Home,” Bellwether Breaks achieves a timeless sound because it refuses to choose between classic rock and more modern blues and soul characteristics. A lot of bands try to sound like a blast from the past, instead of a current band for which the past has its rightful place.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at [email protected].