Southern Tenant Folk Union have gone back to basics for their latest album, eschewing the genre busting invention of their last two releases and instead opting for a straight down the line folk album.
Gone is the Tangerine Dream style banjo playing that typified both Hello Cold, Goodbye Sun (2013) and Chuck Norris Project (2015). A farewell has also been bid to the Scottish based band’s high concepts, such as Hello Cold’s environmental armeggeddon and Chuck Norris’ use of the actor’s own film titles to protest against his right wing politics.
There’s still plenty of politics here. It would be hard not to in a year where Scotland voted overwhelming to reject the Brexit that the whole UK has become embroiled in.
But the overall sound is very different, more traditional, taking in bluegrass and traditional celtic influences. It also sounds more like they do live, gathered around a single mic on stage.
If there is a theme it could be that the band are a bunch of political minstrels playing outside the Houses of Parliament and London’s media centres to express the frustration many feel with modern politics and journalistic bias.
Were You Faking When You Kissed Her? about the insincerity of campaign trail politicians would be particularly satisfying to see sung to the political elite as they trickle into Parliament, as would What Would You Give For a Leader With Soul?
Then there’s What Kind of Worker Do You Want To Be, which mocks the BBC for its failure to scrutinise the government. This would be great to see played outside the broadcaster’s London news base. There are similar themes on The Media Attack, about how low the fourth estate has sunk in its political reporting.
But while these tracks, written by chief songwriter and banjo player Pat McGarvey, often go straight for the jugular there is also subtlety here, courtesy of singer and guitarist Rory Butler.
Carefully Does It, one of his two penned tracks, emerges as one of the highlights, just as his painfully sad song about US school massacres, Slaughter in San Francisco, did on Chuck Norris Project.
This blending of McGarvey’s head and Butler’s heart is one of a number of traits that elevates Southern Tenant Folk Union above many others in the folk scene. That’s even without the contemporary invention of recent releases that has already cemented their place as one of the UK’s most unique acts.
For more information on Southern Tenant Folk Union and to buy Join Forces click here.
by Joe Lepper