Shane Gilchrist rummages through his album collection and
ponders the bright spots of 2012. Today he journeys through
some folky yet widely varied terrain.
The Lumineers. Self-titled.
On the evidence of the debut album by this outfit from
Denver, Colorado, the current roots-folk revival (buoyed by a
diverse range of acts, from Paolo Nutini to the Felice
Brothers) is in good hands. Nodding to tradition is all well
and good, but forward momentum is also required.
And this where is the Lumineers revel. Led by former New
Jersey songsmith Wesley Schultz, whose lyrical grasp reflects
past trials as well as youthful optimism, they clap hands,
stomp feet, bang drums and holler to melodies that beg to be
repeated, time and again. Catchy, clever and honest. For
those who like: Mumford & Sons, Violent Femmes.
The Civil Wars. Barton Hollow.
John Paul White and Joy Williams' Grammy Award-winning
release (best folk album, best country duo/group) deserves
all its acclaim. In parts gentle, elsewhere brooding,
Barton Hollow exemplifies both fine songwriting and
There are no flash production touches here. Instead,
finger-picked acoustic guitar (occasionally augmented by
slide guitar and/or sparse piano) serves as a base from which
the voices of White and Williams coil, dance and rise through
various love ballads (I've Got This Friend, 20 Years),
while also touching on more ragged, blues-infused material
(as in the title track). Simply put, they lift the spirit.
For those who like: Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.
Wilis Earl Beal. Acousmastic Sorcery.
Given pretty much anything involving rudimentary harmonic
theory is currently enjoying a revival as ''folk'' or
''roots'', former United States soldier Wilis Earl Beal
offers a poetic, sometimes shambolic twist on the marketeers'
Just when you think you have him pinned down as dust-bowl
blues shaman (Take Me Away), the chameleon-like Beal
paints himself as a black Nick Drake (Sambo Jo From The
Rainbow) or evokes Tom Waits' comments on (un)neighbourly
paranoia (Ghost Robot). With his
stream-of-consciousness lyricism set to lo-fi percussion and
clanky strings, Beal offers either an authentic new musical
voice or a perfectly contrived rustic facade. Let's just hope
Moby doesn't sample him. For those who like: John Cale meets
First Aid Kit. The Lion's Roar.
Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg have teamed up
with Omaha-based producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) to produce
an album that holds many moods. The washes of echo on the
duo's hauntingly sweet vocals provide a cool, almost
distracted spin on folky, rustic songs in which they sing of
death, unrequited love (or love gone cold) and loneliness.
Yet despite conjuring such still reflections, they manage to
dance down warmer roads, too, largely because of the delicate
beauty they bring to their performances. They may name-check
Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash within the same
song (Emmylou), but First Aid Kit offer more than mere
imitation. For those who like: Fleet Foxes meet Dusty