Sometimes place can be a crucial, defining element in music. Geography permeates songs, conjuring flavor, timbre and tone, and provides a sort of guidepost for creation. It can give voice to the restless ghosts and unresolved history that drifts unsettled in the breeze.
For Pilcrowe, the massive Colorado Plateau is imbedded deep in every guitar lick, drum note and vocal phrase—the dense and haunting forests of the mountains; the expansive, arid deserts of the lowlands; and the imposing, picturesque canyon country imbue a sense of the spacious, boundless West often lamented in literature or the hazy dreams of a bygone era. This is where Pilcrowe was born, among the dirt, rocks, wide-open spaces and dark skies, but also within the region’s remarkable mix of peoples and interwoven communities.
We’re never sure what to call it—rock, folk, Americana, or whatever moniker might get tossed around. But Pilcrowe’s long-simmering songs and patient musicianship create a singular atmosphere as the band attempts to offer a contemporary take on the places where landscape and humanity intersect.
Pilcrowe, based in Flagstaff, Arizona, is part of a musical continuum that began more than a decade ago. Drummer Andrew Lauher and guitarist Ryan Heinsius have collaborated for years in other projects like Crow Wing and the Voluntary String Band. But Pilcrowe has remained a steadfast focus for the duo with a 2022 EP, The Big Burn, under their belts and a full-length album, West of Center, released by the band’s own Woody Mountain Records, in 2023. The LP’s nine original tracks blend the acoustic earthiness of folk music and singer-songwriter Americana with an electrified punch that Pilcrowe has developed through playing countless live shows across the country in its many forms over the years.
West of Center’s cover features the lush artwork of Flagstaff artist Cole Habay. Titled “West of Center: The Arizona Trail,” it served as the inspiration for the album’s name and title track and informed the music aesthetically, philosophically and emotionally. Cole’s artwork also graced the cover of Pilcrowe’s The Big Burn in 2022. See more of her work at colehabayart.com.