The Cheapest Key, a local band formed three years ago when principal members Laura Chartier and Laurence Blakely began combining forces at the Anchorage Folk Festival, have released their first album, called ‘Postcard’ and will ring it in with an album party Saturday night at La Potato.
The 10-track album, available on CD, as well as Spotify, hitches the duo with a full band including Chad Reynvaan on drums, Mark Ward and Jared Woods on guitar and Craig Tuten on trombone for a full-bodied Americana sound that goes far beyond the minimalism of traditional folk.
“It’s pretty eclectic; we went a little bit further, more into Americana/alt-country-ish,” Blakely said. At the show, where the band’s album producer Reynvaan opens with his one-man act, The Cheapest Keys will play their 10 tracks, along with some of their favorite covers including the song by Kathleen Edwards from which the band took its name.
“We liked that the piano part has a really high energy, we liked the attitude of the song and the way it sounded,” Blakely said. “Also we liked the history of music acts naming themselves after another musical something — it’s a part of music history.”
Chartier, a former UAA instructor, plays the piano on the album’s haunting upright honky tonk melodies in songs about travel, lost love and appreciation of the little things in life.
“One of the reasons we called the album ‘Postcards’ is that it’s a sort of eclectic mix of music in common snapshots in time — a sense of journey,” Chartier said. “In reflection, we kind of looked back at them, tying them together and defining different sounds.”
Chartier and Blakely said the burgeoning Spenard coffee house venue The Writer’s Block has become their favorite home base, and have also seen house parties pick up as popular venues for artists of their ilk.
“Actually we played in our backyard back in the fall, raising funds for the album,” Blakely said. “That was very successful and people are doing that a lot.”
With ‘Postcards’ The Cheapest Key is able to weave together a common narrative despite the two permanent members of the band writing songs independently of one another.
“I think what makes it cohesive is the arrangement and style,” Chartier said. “The songs were written independently and we’d come together to work on songs. The other adds instrumentation, adds vocal harmonies. For sure that’s a signature part of our sound.”
Blakely, who has played in a number of local bands, including bass for the B-49s, a B-52s homage band, said partnering with Chartier allowed her to focus on her strengths.
“I was starting to write again and I hadn’t done that a lot,” Blakely said. “I don’t consider myself a front person; I don’t think I have a front voice, either, so I thought it would be fun to combine. Those are very important qualities in any kind of band.”
As far as marketing its debut album, The Cheapest Key hasn’t done a lot outside of Saturday night’s album release party. No tours are in the works — though they’d be up for any — but the band does have a website and a social media presence, which helped The Cheapest Key get played on a terrestrial radio station in Scotland.
“We have a couple more gigs shortly thereafter, but we haven’t decided yet about the Juneau Folk Fest,” Chartier said. “We’re already talking about album No. 2; we already have a ton of material as it is. I’ve learned a ton from our first time recording.”
Saturday night’s event starts at 8 p.m. at La Potato with The Cheapest Key’s ‘Postcard’ for sale for $10.