“Devil in the Seat” – The Foghorn Stringband
Over 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:
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
Saturday 16 Cookstown The Red Room (Sold out)
Sunday 17 Glasgow CCA
Monday 18 Edinburgh Traverse Theatre Bar
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.