Without a stage to play on over the past few years, The Tortoise The Hare & The Millionaire passed the time writing and refining and shaping an album’s worth of material that would best represent their vision and interpretation of what a debut album could be. The resulting album, Yard Sale, establishes the group’s identity as a conduit for revivalist rock and communal music making.
What exactly is a yard sale? I mean, really. We drive by them just about every weekend during the spring and summer months and more often than not, we don’t pay much attention at all. But from my experience, whenever I make the effort to stop, park, and walk back to happily scrounge through boxes, coat racks, and piles of someone else’s junk, I always find something I’m looking for. Or more accurately, something I didn’t realize I was looking for until that very moment. My old apartment was decorated with bits and bobs and knickknacks collected over countless yard sales and flea markets. And whether or not I realized it at the time, this collection of bric-a-brac was shaping an identity. My identity. One piece at a time. Some glass insulators here, an old camera there. A handful of old records that may or may not even be playable. It was all me. A sum of all parts collected and reimagined into something new, with meaning and purpose.
Here’s another way to think of it. Picture your grandmother’s house. Or any old relative for that matter. Shelves full of odds and ends that may seem like junk to you, but to her, or them, or whoever, it’s all part of who they are. Would a visit to grandma’s be the same without all the decorative miscellanea? The answer is no. Flat-out, no.
I could beat this yard sale metaphor senseless for another 500 words at least, but I think you get where I’m coming from. We’re here to talk about the brilliantly titled debut album by The Tortoise, The Hare and The Millionaire, a recording that creates its identity by gathering various musical influences and guest musicians, collected and reimagined into something new, with meaning and purpose.
Up until now, I wasn’t sure what The Tortoise, The Hare and The Millionaire were all about. Were they simply a band content on playing around with old blues forms, or were they looking for something more? I couldn’t decide. And as it turned out, I wasn’t alone. When the group’s bassist Eric Allard sent me over a copy of the album back in early May, his accompanying message answered this question perfectly and in doing so, gave me a whole new way to appreciate the band and its music. Instantly, the title made all the sense in the world.
“We can’t decide if we’re a blues, rock or a funk band, so it’s all there,” he said, following up that definitive statement with a winking emoji. “That’s where the Yard Sale idea came from. You can find a little bit of everything at a yard sale,” he added.
The lightbulb moment. My lightbulb moment. As strange as it may sound, Allard’s words were just what I needed to read. It was at that moment I finally understood the band. Armed with this new knowledge, I was able to dig through Yard Sale and scavenge more than I expected to find.
The album begins with a line that, just like the title, is full of ambiguity in the best and most clever of ways. “I know how far I’ll go to get to you. It’s what I want to do.” I can’t think of a better introduction to this collection of songs, this collection of musicians, this yard sale they have curated.
Part of what sets this album aside from anything the group released previously is the broader range of style and influence it presents. Which I suppose has something to do with having more tracks to play with. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I think it’s more than that. I think it speaks to time well spent during the darkest of pandemic days. Without a stage to play on, The Tortoise, The Hare and The Millionaire passed the time writing and refining and shaping an album’s worth of material that would best represent their vision and interpretation of what a debut album could be.
Like the band’s earlier releases, Yard Sale doesn’t attempt to hide where it’s coming from. It’s The Band, The Allman Brothers, The Eagles, The Grateful Dead, and The Ohio Players, to name just a few. But listening to these songs and identifying just a few of the main characteristics – like the singalong verse/chorus structure of I Know; the hyped-up hip-shake of Believe; or the let’s-all-get-together-and-jam-this-riff-to-see-where-it-goes spontaneity of Get To Steppin – it’s impossible to ignore just how much the band has evolved over the past few years.
Yard Sale was recorded by Dylan Ward (Marian) at Shiftwork and produced by Kill Chicago’s Greg Webber, whose influence can be heard plain as day on the song, Wish I Knew.
So, to bring it all back to the whole yard sale thing, The Tortoise, The Hare and The Millionaire are undoubtably Matthew Carr, Eric Allard, Ted Nicholson, Adam Gay, and Sean Hutchins. But for this project – this yard sale – they are also Greg Webber (vocals, keys, production), Dylan Ward (vocals, recording and mixing), Kelly Waterhouse (sax), Jeannine Gallant (trombone), Emily Kennedy (cello), Juan Morales (percussion), Alan Jeffries (vocal harmonies), Jonnie Price (guitar), Brad Perry (photography), Chris Tompkins (art and design), and Kate Butler (She Said Feck Records). And that’s just how they like it.
“Playing music is about the community for us,” said Allard. “As a result, we like to include as many collaborators as possible.”
Yard Sale arrives June 3. To mark the occasion, the band will be playing an album release show at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre with Apollo Suns as part of the Living Roots Music Festival. The party starts at 7 p.m.
June 3 | Living Roots Music Festival | Fredericton, NB
June 29 | Area 506 Festival | Saint John, NB
July 8-10 | Feelsgood Folly Fest | Village of Gagetown, NB