Guitarist Jef Fretwell and his band, The Detractors, recently have taken a new approach to their "rural electric" music, writing looser arrangements with room for instrumental interludes.
The benefit of tight arrangements is that everyone knows what's going to happen, but the disadvantage is that you're limited on what you can do, Fretwell explains. Improvisation means you have to be OK with not knowing what will happen next, he adds.
"We want to make new things happen but with enough discipline to pull back, self-edit and keep things from evolving into a free, improv session," he says. "Nobody wants to hear you noodle on your guitar for 15 minutes without there being a purpose."
Who: Jef Fretwell and The Detractors
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, and 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4
Where: Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., and The Wild Goose Cafe and Bar, 2365 Ashland St., Ashland
Covers: $5 at Alex's and free at The Wild Goose
Call: 541-482-8818 or 541-488-4103
Fretwell and The Detractors, featuring Sage Meadows on bass, Steven Lindley on drums and Dal Carver on his faithful 1974 Fender Rhodes electric piano, will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland, and at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, at The Wild Goose Cafe and Bar, 2365 Ashland St., Ashland. (The Stamps will share the bill at Alex's.)
The Detractors, formerly called The New Autonomous Folksingers, plays edgy, old-fashioned country and honky-tonk.
"I guess it's country-rock, to be honest," Fretwell says. "It's certainly in the spirit of 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' (by The Byrds), country-rock of once upon a time, but we don't have the pedal steel that you would associate with those kinds of acts. A country-rock band is a stripped-down version of a country band, and we're a stripped-down version of a country-rock band."
Sets include Fretwell's "self-deprecatin', complainin' " originals — he admits he's not prone to pouring out his heart to audiences — and a few "comfort songs" and standards, including "High on a Mountain," "From Pizza Towers to Defeat," by Leo Kotte, and some John Prine songs.
"It's a small town, and you can't play the same ol' songs with the same ol' arrangements over and over again and expect people to be interested," Fretwell says.
The band will hit the studio this spring to record its debut album, but first, the piano "needs some love and mechanical attention."
Cover to the show at Alex's is $5. The show at The Wild Goose is free. Look for the band on Facebook.