The 444s: good, honest folk

The 444s are one of the tightest four-pieces on the scene— I went to check them out under the red lights at Brutopia last weekend. Their style is somewhere between kicked-up folk and folked-up rock. Lead singer Tim Smith’s songwriting reminds me a lot of Oliver Wood’s work with The Wood Brothers. The place was packed with so many friendly familiar faces, and the band was laid back and warm which was a welcomed departure from the I’m-too-cool-to-act-like-I-care vibe I too often come across. These guys are cool enough to give a shit and you can feel it.

The band’s line-up is Tim Smith on vocals and guitar, Nic Power on lead, Richard Clarke on bass and Mark Charbonneau on drums. These guys can really sing together. Clarke and Smith are cousins and isn’t there something about familial ties and singing harmony? In his own right, Tim Smith has to be one of the best vocalists around. His big, open-your-heart vocals are at once loose and controlled.

The first of their three sets had the crowd near frenzy— I caught Power at the break and he told me deadpan,

That “it’s all downhill from here.”

I have to say something about Power’s lead playing: it’s blazing, and I mean blazing. He’s all over the neck and he does it in such a nonchalant fashion that it’s earned him the moniker “Nic (I don’t even have to try) Power”.

Charbonneau and Clarke are no slouches either. These guys really anchor the band with super tight yet supple rhythms. Their killer rhythmic foundation work allows Smith and Power to improvise and explore within a song’s framework. This quartet had people smiling and dancing, had people with their hearts open. The 444s are among the best roots-based groups in the city.

The 444s perform Wednesday, April 23 at Bar de Courcelle, in Saint-Henri. Check out their current album, self-titled, released in 2013.

Photo by Jesse Anger.

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