The Woodworks have been one of the hardest-rocking and hardest-working indie bands in town for many years, with three full-length albums. Au Naturel messes with that formula, being their first EP and a fairly acoustic affair. Due to its more delicate nature, this record becomes a showcase for lead singer Solo Lounsbury’s vocals.
“Anthem of a Complex Creature” is the opening track, and all it takes is the fiddle work of Kevin Wiscombe to make Lounsbury’s guitar, Konstantin Bosch’s percussion and Steve Beer’s bass instantly sound like gypsy rock to rival Gogol Bordello. This has always been kind of hinted at on other records, but they totally go for it here. The down-home dirge of “Draggin’,” from 2014’s Safe Mode, feels like a modern take on “In the Pines” here, with the mood it creates and the layers of sound. Meanwhile, from that same album, “Oxytocin” gets the jazzy funk treatment it’s always deserved, with Kyle Woo of Banana Gun delivering some seductive saxophone throughout.
Au Naturel concludes with “Rollin’,” which starts as a percussion wonderland before it reaches vocal nirvana—featuring most of Manic Monkeys, with Mike and Tiffany Hilstrom and Joel Ekdahl, in addition to Japhy Ryder, Danger Paul and Anthony Fama. It’s essentially a Tempe indie rock revival choir, or at least it sounds like one. This is an exquisitely Arizona-drenched track that approaches authentic desert rock. On this four-track gem, the Woodworks prove that they can do whatever they want with whatever they’ve got—whether as electrified rockers or down-home gypsy dancers—and the results are always compelling and addictive.