“Don’t know where this boat is going...” Plainer lyrics are rarely sung like the opening line of William Moretti’s latest Denver Boot release 6 To 9, 7, 12. That song, “I Disagree,” opens with beautifully simple guitar finger picking that reminds me of something great from Nick Drake before ratatat drums and slippery lyrics take it galloping off in a country folk direction. This simple track sets the stage for an emotionally heavy yet musically austere record from one of Providence’s finest folk artists, who finally seems poised to make a name and step out from the shadows of local heavyweights like Joe Fletcher and The Low Anthem. Mr. Moretti’s music shares important common bonds with both, but also stays true to his own unique and simple style.
Moretti had been keeping Denver Boot essentially a solo outlet until last winter, before fleshing out a full time band with banjo player John Frost and upright bassist Amato Zinno, and completing the live lineup with Diane O’ Connor on violin and longtime collaborator Tony Nimmo on the drums.
On “Keep it Close,” the theme seems to revolve around staying true to whatever keeps you strong, although Moretti is coy about whether it’s a bible or a bottle that he’s been leaning on. Moretti explains the record’s lyrical content: “Going through the changes most people go through in their 20s, watching me and my friends turn the page into adulthood, relationships at extreme highs and lows, an overstayed welcome of drug and alcohol abuse [left them] questioning the direction of the lives we were leading. Providence is a small town, with lots of stories.”
Though musically simple and deceivingly gentle, the record is a tour de force of the myriad sprawling folk and country tropes, often within the same song. On the beautiful and dark “Cold Water,” the song cycles through funereal mountain folk and rollicking country with ease and then again on “Spare Change,” utilizing Providence’s go-to lap steel man Mike Samos to gorgeous effect.
On what’s been influencing him lately, Moretti is (typically for most musicians, it seems) all over the map. “I’ve been listening to a lot of different things: Damien Jurado, Magnolia Electric Company, Cocoa Rosie and a lot of classical music, specifically Mozart. I actually got to see Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Magnum, Damien Jurado and Wilco live in the past year, which was really special.”
On “Flowers,” he sings, “Still smell you on my clothes and in my bed... I wonder who you’ve been with.” When pressed on the record’s dark and highly personal subject matter he sums it up thusly: “In a town this small we all know an ex-lover with an axe to grind, perhaps a new lover with jealousy issues. Providence is just a big, dirty bed.”
It’s been a good year for Denver Boot so far; the band played a well-attended CD release in Fete’s ballroom, as well as a memorable show at the Gelderstock music festival in Brookfield, Connecticut. “When we arrived it was pouring rain and everyone attending was huddled under the tent. The P.A. was off so there was no music, and everyone looked miserable. Without saying anything we set up and played acoustically. Suddenly everyone was dancing.”
The Boot intends to take the winter off from live gigs in order to focus on the writing and recording of their next record, which Moretti promises will have “Less country overtones” and will be “tastefully gothic in nature.” He enthuses, “The whole band is pretty excited.”