Saturday, June 22, 2024


Billy Conway plays in 2011. (Photo: Christián Lair)

Billy Conway plays in 2011. (Photo: Christián Lair)

What’s Billy Conway up to? The Morphine drummer has switched from low rock – the category invented by the famed Cambridge band – to roots music in the supergroup Cold Satellite.

The band, touring the Midwest behind the release of the album “Cavalcade” Tuesday, is formed around singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault and award-winning poet Lisa Olstein and includes Jeremy Moses Curtis on bass; David Goodrich on electric guitars, Nashville session veteran Alex McCollough on pedal steel and Hayward Williams on keyboards.

The album was Kickstarted in March, with 356 backers contributing $20,845 on a $15,000 goal. It’s a follow-up to the band’s eponymous 2010 album, which critic Greil Marcus said had “a country feel that puts the people who live in the Nashville charts to shame.” The band’s label is Signature Sounds, which is based in Northampton (where Foucault lives) and formed in 1995 to promote the growing acoustic scene there. Its blurb plays up folk, Americana and roots before mentioning its singer-songwriter, rock and indie strains.

But Foucault resists a roots label. “I think what sets Cold Satellite apart is the strange pairing. Lisa is a very modern writer and a rising star on the best press in the country, and this band is playing the least postmodern music possible – completely unironic, straight-up late-American rock ’n’ roll in the Crazy Horse, Creedence, Led Zeppelin, Faces vein,” he said.

Morphine also displayed a wide range of musical tastes in its 10-year run, ending when singer Mark Sandman died onstage in Italy in 1999. Its inclusion of blues, jazz, rock and beat sensibilities were shaped by its emphasis on bass, drums and saxophone, though, and Cold Satellite is, as Foucault said, much more in the vein of straight-ahead, roots-related rock.

Foucault is here for three days in August, but Cold Satellite is not. Until it tours locally, its music is available via Soundcloud and iTunes.