A quahog is an edible, hard-shelled marine bivalve mollusk (aka, a clam), which is native to the eastern shores of North America, from Prince Edward Island to the Yucatán Peninsula. The Quahogs are something completely different, barring the fact that they too hail from the Eastern shores of North America … well, Providence, but you get the idea. Far from being something you’d wanna deep-fry, the band known as The Quahogs combine the best elements of folk, rock and country into a gut-wrenching, raw, rootsy blend, which throughout retains a relevant, youthful sound.
The band is the brainchild of Quahog songwriter and singer-guitarist Steve Delmonico, who in 2011 began recruiting like-minded musicians to flesh out a backlog of his song ideas. The final lineup of Kevin Aubin on drums, Chaz Weber and Jim Galvin on lead guitars, and Ethan Kerrigan on bass pooled their collective talents into a forthcoming project titled Traveler’s Log. Though that CD is due out any time, The Quahogs decided to release a prelude EP of new material called Spasms, which is free to download on their various social media sites.
The EP comes at a precarious time for the band, especially for Steve Delmonico, who has been laid up and out of service for several months battling a severe case of pancreatitis, brought on by, as he puts it, “binge drinking like an idiot.” And it’s that kind of honesty that underscores his entire style of songwriting, in that he demonstrates a fearlessness to feel his own pain and transcribe it to song. In fact, most of the songs on the new E.P. reflect a sense of frustration and isolation he clearly must have felt during this dark period, which included stints in both the hospital and rehab.
In the time-honored tradition of greats like Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and other songwriters that he and his fellow Quahogs admire, Delmonico writes from a place of courage and veracity. After all, good songwriters give the public what they want. Great songwriters tell them what they need to hear. On the track “Midnight Train,” Delmonico minces few words in detailing a sense of loss and lament in the wake of damage done: “I’m drunk again with you on my mind / It’s happened once before, it’s happened every time / All I wanna do is drown the pain, and forget the day you took the midnight train / Fuck the midnight train, she shot me low / My baby left me about a year ago…”
Another standout track is “Grand Central,” which at first blush sounds like an updated version of something The Byrds would have done on their 1968 foray into country music, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. But make no mistake, their work is not derivative, it’s inspired: “Went to Saratoga Springs, right back down to Queens to forget what I left behind me / Well it ain’t so bad, I got a flask and a brand new pack, and I’m thinking baby just maybe someday someone will save me.”
As is often the case, lack of space permits me to expound on just how impressed I am with The Quahogs. And considering how long-winded I can be, maybe that’s for the best. But I can declare without any hesitation that these few tracks represent a sound and songwriting style that rank The Quahogs among the best original bands to come out of the area in some time. Most artists spend many months and even years looking for their own unique voice. But in this case, it seems like the voice and sound came looking for a band. And in The Quahogs, worthy caretakers were found, and hopefully they’ll carry on the tradition of unvarnished, honest songwriting and heavy roots performances for many years to come.