The Damn Quails. Now that’s a memorable band name. What’s even more memorable is their music, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The Oklahoma-based band is made up of Gabe Marshall, Bryon White, Thomas Young, Kevin Foster and Dillon Sampson. They released their debut album in 2011, titled Down The Hatch. Their brand of music they call “folk rock” attracted the attention of fans and critics everywhere. Unfortunately, a legal battle between The Damn Quails and their management company and record label came shortly after. Several lawsuits were filed between both sides over the likeness, name and music of the band. After a two-year legal battle and touring with no merchandise to sell to make money, The Damn Quails won ownership of their name and were free to make new music again. But they had no financial backing or label, so they turned to someone who had been their for them through it all: their fans, who they refer to as “The Covey.” A Kickstarter campaign in January of 2015 raised $55,000 and allowed them to record their new record. David Abeyta of Reckless Kelly was chosen to produce the album and it was recorded in Austin, Texas at 12th Street Sound. And that is what all lead to The Damn Quails brand new, comeback album Out of the Birdcage.
The Damn Quails say they chose this name because “The title signifies the freedom the band feels having finally emerged to follow their true path, a path where they own their own future and are in charge of their own destiny.” Of course it’s rightly appropriate that the album title track kicks off the album. It’s their welcome back anthem to the world if you will and a reminder that they can still make music with the best of them. It’s also a great way to start Out of the Birdcage, with it’s rocking instrumentation and tell-it-like-it-is lyrics, which are two of the strong points throughout it. “Tough Luck/Cryin’ Shame” features more great instrumentation from the band. There are a wide variety of instruments featured throughout the song, from the organ to the drums to fiddles to guitars. This is a song that probably sounds even better live.
The concept of good and bad is the theme of “Tightrope Walker.” The song is about a woman who walks the line between being a “saint” and “sinner.” Not to mention the song features some slick electric guitar play too. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Faster Than You’d Think.” It’s a song about the world changing around you faster than you think. Everything about this song is catchy, especially the songwriting. It’s well done and it’s easy to get stuck in your head. The easy-going “Song of Home” follows. This love song is about a man and woman falling in love and going on to have a family. It’s a real feel-good song all-around that’s easy to enjoy and hum along with. Another highlight of Out of the Birdcage is definitely “Oklahoma Blue.” It’s a bluesy tune featuring plenty of harmonica play that tells the story of a man who went to Detroit, lost it all and now yearns to return home to Oklahoma. This is another song that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
The Damn Quails slow it down with “Woody Guthrie (From The Dust).” It’s a dedication to the legendary folk writer Guthrie, who was known for his protest songs and depicting life in the Dust Bowl era in the Great Depression, which greatly impacted Oklahoma where both Guthrie and The Damn Quails hail from. I think Guthrie would be pretty proud of The Damn Quails, as this darker song feels like something Guthrie would do. This is one of those songs you appreciate more with each listen. “Rattlesnakes (Through the Cotton)” is a heartbreak song that is yet another song with a rich tapestry of instrumentation. The piano, steel guitar and mandolin play really stood out to me on this song. The lyrics are also really clever, especially the hook of the song. The organ-filled “Give It Some Time” is up next. Despite the chorus getting a tad monotonous after a few listens, this is a fun song that really lets the entire band shine and show their full talents. Again this is a song that would work even better live.
The Damn Quails sing of heartbreak again in “The Man in the Mirror.” And it may be their best heartbreak song yet, as the song tells the story of how the only people to blame for a man and woman’s relationship ending are themselves. The song does a great job conveying the feelings one goes through in a breakup with the tone and pace. This is arguably the best song on the album. “Just a Little While” is a breezy song about two people falling in love with each other. The steel and pedal steel guitars drive the sound of this song and combined with the easy to enjoy lyrics, this is a fun song that many can enjoy. Out of the Birdcage concludes with “Vastness.” It’s appropriately named, as the song feels vast, expansive and deep, much like how the man who has lost love in the song. The sound of this song is cool, yet bizarre. The combination of the organ and mandolin give the song a light, yet heavy feel. It’s one of those songs you need to hear for yourself to understand. Regardless it all oddly works and closes the album out in a strong way.
I would say The Damn Quails are back, but they have never really left with their constant touring. Out of the Birdcage is more of a step forward and fresh start for a group that needed it after two years of legal messiness. It’s full of great songs about life and love and it’s something you have to hear for yourself. They’re free, as the title of the album says. And with this freedom the sky is the limit for The Damn Quails.