Although the band is based in Washington, it's Montana that's actually known as the "Treasure State." Once upon a time, singer/songwriter Joel Phelps was a member of the Seattle-by-way-of-Missoula quartet Silkworm. Long before the other three members moved to Chicago, he struck out on his own as Joel R.L. Phelps & the Downer Trio. A few years later, Downer member Robert Mercer formed his own trio, the aforementioned Treasure State (this rock & roll family tree is becoming very tangled indeed). Mercer (vocals, guitar) is joined on Retain the Risk by Mitch Leffler (drums) and Dan Rathman (bass). (Shortly after they finished recording, the latter moved to Rhode Island and was replaced by Aaron Sheedy.) Just as Phelps has been compared to Will Oldham (Palace Brothers, Bonnie Prince Billy), the comparison would apply just as well to Mercer's spare, minimalist, occasionally ragged glory. Like Phelps, Oldham, and even Alex Chilton, he tends to sing at the top of his register, resulting in vocal cracks and breaks that lend a disarmingly distinctive intensity and vulnerability to the mostly down-tempo, low-key proceedings.
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AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy