“Devil in the Seat” – The Foghorn Stringband

4 stars (out of 5)

0

The Foghorn Stringband - 'Devil In The Seat' - TitleOver the last couple of years, we’ve featured a few artists like The Kennedys and Carrie Rodriguez who very successfully incorporate elements of Americana and roots music into their own particular fusion of styles, but we’ve never had an all-out, old-school roots band to tell you about – until now. The Foghorn Stringband is two couples; one from Portland, Oregon and the other from Yukon. They all sing (in the old stringband tradition, around a single microphone) and the instruments line up something like this: Nadine Landry (upright bass), Stephen “Sammy” Lind (fiddle and banjo), Caleb Klauder (mandolin and fiddle) and Reeb Willms (guitar). The band describe their sound as ‘Ass Kickin’ Redneck Stringband Music’, if that helps you to get your head round the style.

The album wastes no time at all in establishing its credentials with the old square dance tune “Stillhouse”, before slowing down for the fiddle-led “Mining Camp Blues”, where you get harmonies from the female singers, a nice mandolin solo and even a bit of yodelling before moving back uptempo for “Columbus Stockade Blues”. As someone who doesn’t specialise in traditional and roots Americana, I was surprised by the variety of styles on the album but not by the quality of the musicianship, which is excellent throughout.

There album shifts seamlessly through the gears, taking in squaredance stompers (“Columbus Stockade Blues” and “Old Molly Hare”), traditional English folk (the haunting a cappella “What Will We Do”), country (“Longing For a Home” and “90 Miles an Hour”) and a few waltzes (“Henry Lee” and “Leland’s Waltz”). The lyrical themes are as dark as you would expect from traditional folk and country songs with tales of murder, mayhem and maidens led astray, and the old and the new rub shoulders comfortably in the hands of these exceptional musicians.

Many of the instrumentals are fairly short (around two minutes), which means that you get a whopping sixteen tracks on the album, emphasising the vast musical territory covered by the band. It’s a nice touch that the band credit not only the writers of tunes, but also the artists that brought the tunes to their attention initially; it’s not something anyone’s obliged to do, but it’s good to see.

As good as this album is (and I think you might guess where this is going), I suspect that you really need to see The Foghorn Stringband live to really appreciate how good they are. Fortunately for everyone, they’re coming to the UK in May and you can see them here:

Ireland

Wednesday 7              Dublin                          Whelan’s

Thursday 8                  Dungarvan                  The Local

Saturday 9                  Baltimore                     Baltimore Fiddle Fair

Tuesday 12                 Dingle                          John Benny’s Pub

Wednesday 13            Castlebar                     The Linenhall

Thursday 14                Galway                        The Crane Bar

Friday 15                     Manorhamilton            The Glens Centre

Northern Ireland

Saturday 16                Cookstown                  The Red Room (Sold out)

Scotland

Sunday 17                   Glasgow                      CCA

Monday 18                  Edinburgh                    Traverse Theatre Bar

England

Wednesday 20            Newcastle                   Cluny 2

Thursday 21                Liverpool                     The Caledonia

Friday 22                     London                        Kings Place

Saturday 23                Tunbridge Wells          Cajun Barn, King Charles Church Hall

Sunday 24                   Towersey                    The Three Horseshoes

 

The album “Devil in the Seat” is out on Monday April 27 and will be available on CDBaby.