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One of the most promising bands on the Pacific Northwest's roots rock scene, the Maldives are an expansive nine-piece band whose music recalls the mature and graceful storytelling of the Band and the rougher, more forceful attack of alt-country acts such as the Old 97's and the Drive-By Truckers. The Maldives (named for a string of islands in the Indian Ocean) are led by lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Jason Dodson, who formed the band in early 2002, not long after relocating to Vancouver, WA from his native Virginia. Dodson and guitarist Jason Bonn originally conceived the Maldives as a band playing indie pop influenced by the Flaming Lips and Wilco, but Dodson became disenchanted with the style and his songwriting started moving into a country-influenced direction. During the early years of the Maldives, musicians came in and out of the lineup at a heady pace (Dodson told a journalist in 2006 that approximately 30 people had joined and quit the band by that point), and for a while Dodson was using the name while touring as a solo act. Near the end of 2004, Dodson was set to play a show at Seattle's renowned roots music venue the Tractor Tavern, and he asked Bonn and fellow guitarist Tim Gadbois to join him for the show; the performance was a success that sparked a new beginning for the Maldives, and soon the trio was joined by bassist Chris Warner, Chris Zasche on pedal steel and keyboards, and drummer Ryan McMackin. This lineup recorded the Maldives' self-titled debut album in 2005, which was released by Dodson a year later once he pulled together the money for mastering and pressing. Before long, three more members were added to the group -- Kevin Barrans on banjo, accordion, and keyboards, Seth Warren on violin, and Tomo Nakayama on percussion and keyboards -- and word began to spread through the Northwest about the group's impressive, dynamic live shows and Dodson's intelligent, nuanced songwriting. In the fall of 2009, the nine-piece Maldives, cited by several local critics as one of Washington's best live bands, released Listen to the Thunder through the independent label Mt. Fuji Records. ~ Mark Deming