Artists can thrive and grow by being limited. Chosen limitations mother inventiveness, and resourcefulness feels good.
For example, members of the New York band Callers explore the possibilities of limited instrumentation. Guitarist Ryan Seaton has taken on the responsibilities usually divvied up between guitarist and bass player: He fills both functions at once, using a guitar with a bass string added and hands limber enough to stretch into new positions to fulfill his plans. Drummer Don Godwin doesn't use a fancy drum set, but he uses the familiar kit in ways that are free of the assumed patterns and functions that keep a lot of drummers drab.
Seaton and Godwin seem to savor the nimbleness that their stripped-down set-up requires and allows, but Callers also gives them the opportunity to accompany Sara Lucas' voice. Lucas has a big voice that can climb on the musical structures built by Seaton and Godwin, dart and glide among them, and twist, turn, stop and start according to the mysterious musical logic that drives the group. Her voice cuts through the band's joyful din with a nasal edge some find reminiscent of 1970s singer Phoebe Snow, but which Lucas says comes from her mom.
Callers' music is exploratory but rarely strange, because it rests on the bright azure foundation of the blues. Plus, it makes listeners want to dance, even if the song structures are pleasantly unpredictable.
This recent session was Callers' second for my WNYC show Spinning on Air. The group was on the program in 2007 when its first album, Fortune, was released. The new record is titled Life of Love, and the trio plays several songs from it, plus a Wire cover ("Heartbeat"). In a few songs, Lucas plays electric organ, while Seaton and Godwin add vocals. In the video from the session, you can see Godwin use a drumming technique derived from his experience with Balkan traditions, the Brooklyn/Balkan/Blues nexus being just part of the territory this resourceful band explores.