Durango’s regional music community continues to explore and share their talents while keeping local recording studios busy with a generous output of sound.
This month alone has seen or will see releases from local group Lisa Blue Trio, Cortez’s Moetones and The Wrecking Balls, the alt-country duo of Tyller Gummersall and Chris Bettin.
Gummersall and Bettin’s musical relationship began three years ago when they met at a Community Concert Hall event. Gummersall is 24, Bettin is 20 years his senior. Yet despite the age difference, they bonded over writing and shared musical interests. In particular, they both admire the work of Ryan Adams, the successful solo artist and founder of alt-country band Whiskeytown.
Thus began The Wrecking Balls. Their album “Broken,” a 10-song project recorded at Bar-D-Wrangler Gary Cook’s studio north of Durango, debuted last week.
The men have been meeting every week for about a year to write the music on “Broken.”
“I’ve done some writing over the years, but in real life I’m just a working stiff who pretty much kept my affinity for song-writing in the closet until that event where I met Tyller,” Bettin said. “It happened pretty organically. We became friends first, an unlikely bond given the age difference, but our mutual interests sort of broke through those barriers.”
File this under alternative-country, leaning into John Prine-influenced folk. Gummersall has always been busy, cranking out country records since he was a teen. This release and his partnership with Bettin allows them both to explore music that could fit into the productive, “rootsy” and anti-pop country of East Nashville. It’s a record of sad storytelling, with intriguing guitar interplay and striking harmonies.
While their individual writing styles may be biographical, “Broken” is lyrically based on someone else’s experience, fortunes and misfortunes. Bettin and Gummersall have created a quiet and catchy record that draws you into their stories.
It is a simple formula that is not unattainable. Write good songs that are sad and lyrically unambiguous, with character who drink, break up with loved ones and hit the road – musical themes we’ve all vicariously lived through whether we’ve liked it or not.
“I think we’ve both spent a lot of time in our lives writing music about ourselves, which can feel a little too introspective and sometimes makes it difficult to separate enough from the narrative to make sure the quality of the writing takes precedent,” Bettin said. “It was great to have this ethereal ‘other guy’ or in some ways ‘everyman,’ and to explore his dark and lonely world looking in from the outside a bit.”
The record is available on The Wrecking Balls website.