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I sat down with Ben Braden in his living room on Hawthorne over a couple Lagunitas bottles that he had left over from his west coast tour. After over a month of living in and out of hotels and crashing on couches all over Cali you would think he would be worn out, but Ben was as lucid and energetic as on stage, excited about ending the tour here in Portland at the Doug Fir. I last saw The Lower 48 at that very venue in March, when they opened for Tango Alpha Tango. I was instantly struck by their sound that night – not just because of it’s obvious influence to The Beatles, but the pure positivity exuded by their music. Ben and Sarah Parson play off each other’s energy equally, and treat a small room as if it was a stadium show. The three part harmonies, bright guitar riffs, and straightforward drum beats are a welcome reminiscence to when rock and roll was in it’s prime. Don’t get me wrong – they are not just simply shaking the dust off of and old sound. With their self-titled debut album, The Lower 48 created a collection of fresh rock songs that are as fun to dance to as anything I’ve heard of in the pop-rock genre in years. And they are never satisfied with just playing the same old songs – “I think we’re always changing because we play all the time. When we’re here, we’re working. We have a great rehearsal space, and we go there almost every day…Inevitably if you are an artist, and constantly working you should be changing” Ben said, confidently. “Naturally, we’re always evolving. We’re improvise a lot on stage too, I sometimes change lyrics on the spot”. We proceeded to discuss the many alternate lyrics of Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue, prompting Ben to throw on the Blood On the Tracks for the original version. The connection to old Dylan (like Bobby Zimmerman Dylan) can be felt when talking to Ben. His love and knowledge of music runs deep. It’s perfect how the band started playing folk rock in Minneapolis and migrated out here to find themselves as a pure pop-rock band.
The Lower 48 have definitely carved out a nice niche in the local music scene, separating themselves from the pervasive indie and psych rock shows about town. Ben and Sarah Parson have honed their lyrical skills down over the last couple years, resulting in that beautiful male/female harmonizing that just sounds so right. Nick Sadler is the third part of the whole – providing the backbone and soulful background vocals. There’s something to be said about seeing a perfectly balanced three piece band perform live, and they have become that well-oiled machine, nailing every song. Expect some brand-spanking new tunes from them this summer… seems like The Lower 48 are just getting warmed up.