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The Builders And The Butchers: White-Knuckle Americana

The Builders And The Butchers' fifth album, The Spark, comes out May 19. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

The Builders And The Butchers' fifth album, The Spark, comes out May 19.

Courtesy of the artist

For more than a decade, the members of The Builders And The Butchers have specialized in a kind of white-knuckle Americana: Their acoustic folk-rock sound is shot through with nervy, hellfire-and-brimstone intensity. The Portland-born band's hometown brethren in The Decemberists provide a useful reference point — singer Ryan Sollee has a wide-open bellow and a gift for vivid imagery — but The Builders And The Butchers' urgent music, as heard in the new single "Casket Lands," is far more scuffed-up and fatalistic.

On May 19, The Builders And The Butchers will return with The Spark, which carries on in the group's tradition of tightly wound roots music that never feels tethered to a single era. Via email, Sollee writes that the record came together slowly and deliberately.

"For The Spark," he writes, "the intention was to really let things breathe, and have one or two unique instruments driving the melody. Concentrating more on the root of the song. Since members of the band currently live all across the country (and one internationally), the process took a long time to complete, with rehearsals starting 16 months before the mastering of the record. The album spans a ton of sounds, from fully saturated rock to more stripped-down American folk, and simple songs with just guitar and vocals."

As for "Casket Lands," Sollee describes it as "a simple homage to old blues/field-holler tunes. Wrote it after a long Lead Belly listening session, and wanted to try and capture the feeling of a really desperate situation that is out of control, like farming during a dust bowl. The song is really also about environmental impacts of the current times — folks around the world are facing the same desperation due to climate change."

The Builders And The Butchers' new album, The Spark, comes out May 19 via Badman Recording Co.