Southern Tenant Folk Union – Pencaitland

Southern Tenant Folk Union are among a fine crop of genre crossing folk acts to emerge in the UK in recent years. Like England’s The Miserable Rich and The Leisure Society this Edinburgh based act are accomplished folk musicians, have respect for tradition but are brave enough to try out some new tricks. They also have some pretty good tunes as well.

For STFU on Pentcaitland there is a strong folk feel regarding the instruments and in some of the melody, but there’s so much more going on to refer to this as a simple folk album.

Take ‘I dream of burning buildings’ for example. This opener uses traditional instruments but has a strong contemporary feel and above all is a beautiful song.

Elsewhere the tracks merge between traditional folk, radio friendly ballads and political songs. Sometimes upbeat, sometimes sad there’s a lot that impresses us here.

In their press release the band, that was formed five years ago by banjo player and vocalist Pat McGarvey, is keen to emphasis that it is a ‘democratic album, with five of its seven members taking song writing duties. Lead vocal duties are also shared around the band.

While lead vocalist Ewan Macintyre is still the standout Scottish voice on the album violinist Carrie Thomas’s vocals offer something different on ‘The Tide’ as does the English voice of guitarist Jed Milroy, particularly on one of the more traditional sounding tracks ‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death’, which is adapted from the WB Yeats poem.

There’s undoubtedly something for the beardy traditional folksters in their music, but I urge those that have started to look and marvel at bands such as The Miserable Rich to check out Southern Tenant Folk Union as well. There’s clearly a lot more to come from this act, given their desire to push the boundaries of folk music rather than stubbornly stick to its traditional basics.


by Joe Lepper

For more information visit Southern Tenant Folk Union’s website here.


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