Anacortes, Washington, where Gravel comes from, isn’t a lot different from Aberdeen (where Nirvana, Melvins and Metal Church all began); both are cloistered, working-class towns that face the Pacific Ocean from remote corners of the rugged Olympic Peninsula. Singer/guitarist Bryan Elliott and bassist Dale Robinson were originally in the near-acoustic Pounding Serfs. Augmented by guitarist Rich Papritz, the Serfs pounded their rock into Gravel (sorry) with the addition of Bobby Vaux on drums.
Break-a-Bone is a remarkable debut, nine gloomy, glorious songs that suggest nothing so much as Crazy Horse fronted by an animated Mark Lanegan. Gravel aren’t quite the garage-rock revivalists Estrus usually provides a home for, but the group does play with a similar brutish fervor (and never mind that Robinson is wheelchair-bound). Break-a-Bone is a crisp and poignant cry from the middle of nowhere; songs like “Bucket of Blood” (reclaimed from the preceding four-song EP) and “Stone Yard” have the same lonely edge as the best blues, though given a different voice.
No Stone Unturned presents a sometimes louder, sometimes lethargic but altogether less melodic variation on the same themes. The approach works for Patti Smith’s “Pissing in a River” and Gravel’s own “Yesterday,” but for the most part the new songs seem slightly out of focus. In any event, the band toured a little and then ceased to exist.