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The Rockford Files: Western Hymn

Giving the band's self-titled CD a spin

Western Hymn will play McCoy's Aug. 2 and Bob's Java Jive Aug. 3. Photo credit: Meg Cunningham

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Receiving thoughtfully packaged parcels containing wonderful local music has become a reoccurring theme in my life. Last week, I shared with you South Sound music staple Regan Lane and his new band Strangely Alright. This week, I'd like to share with you the contents of yet another package I received, this one containing a CD by Olympia band Western Hymn.

I came across the band in one of my routine scours for shows in the area, and listened to a few of its songs. Foreseeing that it wouldn't be anything less than mandatory to write a column about this wonderful group, I contacted them in the hope of getting a copy of their new album.

Surely enough, a yellow USPS envelope arrived at my home less than a week later. And unlike Carnac the Magnificent, I couldn't help but open it immediately and enlighten myself of its contents. (You probably think I'm too young for that reference. The Best of Johnny Carson DVDs have kept that joke alive.)

The band members of Western Hymn - Craig Extine (guitar, vocals), Sarah Utter (bass, vocals) and Kris Cunningham (drums) - became acquainted when their previous bands played shows together. Brought together by their love of classic punk music such as The Sonics and The Wipers, Western Hymn was born.

"Each of our previous bands - Bangs, The Old Haunts and the Horse Thieves - played a bunch of shows together," Extine said. "We'd all been friends for a while before we started a band together."

Their self-titled CD Western Hymn speaks for itself, just as any great punk album should. But in case you have not bought it yet - "yet" being the operative word - there are a few things you should know about it. The CD begins with the undeniably Northwest track, "Living Things."Producing sounds that can only originate from a dingy basement, the CD continues on to other notable tracks such as "The Life For Me" and"Come Unchained."

If there's such a thing as sophisticated punk rock, Western Hymn is it. It's easy to hear where Pacific Northwest legends such as The Sonics have guided the band's sound and style of songwriting. It's driving but not overly-distorted, angsty but not whiney, and catchy but not cliché.

Western Hymn has several notable shows fast approaching. Friday, Aug. 2, the band will play at McCoy's in Olympia; on the following night, the band will rock Bob's Java Jive alongside Red Hex, Porcelain God and Hornet Leg.

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