Michael Deeds: New Transit’s transition will be celebrated Oct. 11

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comOctober 11, 2013 

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Sean Hatton

PROVIDED BY WADE JORGENSEN

When New Transit’s bassist-guitarist left on friendly terms last year to focus on raising a family, frontman Sean Hatton faced a major problem.

The Boise rock/alt-country band had made a local splash in 2011 after releasing a fairly spectacular debut album, “One.” New Transit’s rich blend of rootsy rock guitar, pedal and lap steel, and folksy vocal harmonies instantly made it one of Idaho’s best bands.

Hatton, 35, is lead singer and guitarist, but Adam Gates contributed those near-constant vocal harmonies — a staple of New Transit’s sound. Finding his replacement wasn’t going to be as simple as finding a new guy who could play a little bass.

“When you have two people singing together as much as Adam and I sing together, that other person becomes a frontman as well,” explains Hatton, who will showcase the latest New Transit lineup at an album-release party tonight (Oct. 11) at the Sapphire Room. “I had a huge hole to fill ... It wasn’t getting filled with anyone else besides another frontman for the band.”

Local singer-guitarist Todd Sloan recently had ended his own band, Low-Fi, an alt-rock trio that toured successfully and saw its music featured on television’s Showtime and CW networks. Low-Fi’s style was a long shot from New Transit’s prairie-infused, Uncle Tupelo-friendly sound. But Sloan says he’d become weary of the indie-rock world — of penning “young, adolescent” songs — and appreciated New Transit’s more grown-up approach.

So when Hatton reached out, Sloan was receptive. He’d already admired New Transit to the point of imagining what it might be like to be in that band.

Nearly a year later, New Transit’s new Frontman B says he does not miss his former role as a Frontman A.

“Sean surrounds himself with great musicians,” Sloan says. “It’s fun. It’s a pleasure to play with these guys.”

Adds Hatton: “Honestly, I love sharing the load with somebody on stage. It’s more fun for me.”

New Transit added a new bassist, Jamie Vink of Audio Moonshine, this summer. Along with original New Transit members Dave Manion (pedal, lap steel) and Louis McFarland (drums) — full-time working musicians who play with other acts — the group has settled comfortably into its incarnation as a quintet.

New Transit’s second album, “Country Music Dead” (review, page 17), is a transitional work completed over 18 months with contributions from both the soon-to-exit Gates and just-appeared Sloan.

The album title is a play on the idea that nobody seems sure how to pigeonhole New Transit — even if, in the eyes of most music critics, steel guitar and vocal twang automatically qualify a band for the “alt-country” category.

Hatton doesn’t care all that much about labels, he says, but ultimately prefers “Northwest rock.”

“I grew up listening to America, Neil Young, Bread, the Grateful Dead,” he says. “Everything from heavy rock ’n’ roll to ’80s pop, so there’s a little bit of all of that in the music, and there is some Western or country or Americana influence. What do you call that nowadays, anyway?

“I like the Northwest rock approach. We are in the Northwest of the United States. And it’s really rock ’n’ roll, but it has these other influences in it.”

• New Transit album-release party, 8 p.m. Oct. 11, Sapphire Room, Riverside Hotel, 2900 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City. Opening: Hillfolk Noir, a.k.a. Belle. Tickets: $10 at Record Exchange and Sapphire Room; tickets still available at press time.

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