Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
It's impossible to read a thing about the Albuquerque, New Mexico, band Sad Baby Wolf, without having the s-word come up and from all accounts - from the numerous members that Shins leader James Mercer has let go over the years - it's a bit of a dirty word. Jesse Sandoval went off and started what's become as popular of a food cart that downtown Portland has, in Nuevo Mexico, and now Marty Crandall has moved back to New Mexico to form this band, with old friends and a brother. It's a group that has a feeling of the crafted output of a group of people who have been through all kinds of thicks and thins together and the results are thumping and orange like a fat, summer sun.
They have nothing really to do with redemption or carving out any sort of new beginning, but they feel like that. They involve a lot of star-gazing and looks upon the far off distance, squinting to see if there's anything out there that could be worth a damn, anything that might be alright to welcome into their arms. It seems kind of stupid to say - only having briefly met someone and not really knowing anything about them other than what's been presented in rock and roll journalism about them (something that is and never should be all that comprehensive) - but Sad Baby Wolf's music seems to come from people who know that it's neither the worst that it's going to get nor is it the best that it's ever going to get. It's music and wizened stories that come from people who appreciate that there are so many roads that haven't been traveled down. There are all kinds of people who are going to come around who are going to floor the shit out of you, who will make you numb and who will light you up. They've seen so much. They've been through so much and still, one thing's abundantly clear, and that is that they know they've not seen anything yet.
They believe, as singer Marty Crandall offers in "Survival Guide," that hearts and souls live forever, but there's a sense that they'd admit that they haven't experienced anything close to the full breadth of what love, the heart or the soul can do. Crandall, his drummer brother Maury Crandall, Jason Ward, bassist Sean McCullough and guitarist Neal Langford have this new thing that sounds like sad wolves. It sounds like old wolves though, not baby ones. They are wolves that have been through many winters. They know what they can take and they know that they can't judge their capacity either. They're okay with goodbyes, because it only means that the next thing out of their mouths will be hellos and that couldn't be more reassuring. Ward sings, "We will survive this winter/And we will thrive next summer/Leaving footprints in the snow/To other places we go."