Although the Builders and the Butchers formed in Portland during the mid-2000s, the band's hybrid of folk, country, and twangy rock evokes the Great Depression more than the contemporary Northwest. The group's beginnings date back to fall 2003, when frontman Ryan Sollee relocated from Alaska to Portland with his then-current band, the Born Losers. A newfound fascination with blues, country, and gospel music convinced Sollee to launch a different project, and the musician teamed up with several local players -- including bassist Alex Ellis, organist/percussionist Ray Rude, drummer Paul Seely, and mandolin/banjo player Harvey Tumbleson -- to form the Builders and the Butchers.
Playing their first show in fall 2005 (on Halloween weekend, no less), the Builders quickly found an audience with their dark, Southern gothic songcraft, most of which was played on acoustic instruments with little amplification. Although the band was forced to add amplifiers as the crowds increased, the down-home appeal still remained, and local Americana label Bladen County Records soon signed the Builders and the Butchers to their roster. A self-titled LP followed in March 2007.
Despite being recorded in a studio, the band's debut was essentially a live record. Released in 2009, Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well proved to be a different story, featuring a polished Americana sound courtesy of the Decemberists' Chris Funk, who produced the album. After logging several months on the road, the Builders and the Butchers went back to their original approach for their third effort, Dead Reckoning, which was recorded in a series of inspired live takes over eight days. In 2013, the band released its fourth studio outing, the Badman-issued Western Medicine. The same label issued The Spark in 2017. A self-produced album, it was pieced together digitally due to members being spread across (and in one case, out of) the country. ~ Andrew Leahey