When they appeared on the Brick Café stage during [Sidenote: This is the sixth post in our coverage of the sixteenth annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. We’ll be alternating our reporting with essays and photo galleries from the twenty-second festival in 2019, so check in often for a mix of old and new Woodyfest goodness.] Woodyfest 2013, The Deslondes were still billing themselves as Sam Doores + Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds. The moniker was not only long and awkward; it also conflicted with the dozens of other musical acts calling themselves “The Tumbleweeds.”
When I saw the New Orleans-based quintet again three months later, the band had updated the name. As they told me when I interviewed them that night, [Sidenote: While I still have the audio from that interview, I haven’t found time to transcribe it. To be notified when I post it, please subscribe to the newsletter.] the name comes from the Holy Cross [Sidenote: A neighborhood located in the Lower Ninth Ward District of New Orleans, Louisiana.] street where the band first wrote, practiced, and recorded.
[The Deslondes play] a rhythm that sounds distinctive […] but also [conveys] an entire pop history that spans New Orleans rhythm and blues, early Memphis rock, Louisiana Hayride country, and every pick-up jazz band ever to busk on Royal Street.
Comprising Sam Doores, Riley Downing, Dan Cutler, Cameron Snyder, and John James Tourville, The Deslondes play country music informed by a deep knowledge of all strains of American popular music.
It’s country that seems like it never parted ways with [Woody] Guthrie’s populist strains of folk, or felt threatened by rock ’n’ roll’s youthful ruckus. […] Downing even specifies in the band’s bio that the traffic jam-themed rockabilly number “Less Honkin’, More Tonkin’” was inspired not just by George Jones recordings in general, but Jones’ early Starday sides, specifically. [Sidenote: Hight, Jewly, NPR Music, “Review: The Deslondes, The Deslondes” (21 March 2015)]
Woodyfest played a rôle in the band’s formation: Doores and Snyder first met Downing at the festival 2006 when the former pair were performing as The Broken Wing Routine. At the time, Downing was merely a music fan who loved Woody Guthrie. He was a “young folk punker farm hand” [Sidenote: Facebook Messenger conversation with Riley Downing, 10 April 2020.] from Missouri at the time. [Sidenote: Downing’s band, Nothing Else, was based in Kansas City.]
When the band later played Woodyfest as The Tumbleweeds they were in the midst of touring with Hurray for the Riff Raff. Doores and Cutler also played with the latter band during the tour.
The Deslondes have also toured or opened for the Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, and John Fullbright. Their first single, “Fought the Blues and Won,” was premiered by NPR. [Sidenote: Powers, Ann, NPR Music, “Songs We Love: The Deslondes “Fought the Blues and Won”” (16 January 2015)] The music video for the song “The Real Deal” premiered on Rolling Stone. [Sidenote: Shelburne, Craig, Rolling Stone, “Watch the Deslondes Dodge TVs and Groupies in “The Real Deal”” (14 July 2015)]
The Deslondes sophomore album, Hurry Home, is out from New West Records now.