Today, interest in bluegrass and folk music is stronger than ever. From the onset of American history, folk music has shown up at times when the people needed it most. The timeless appeal of folk music has led to the 21st century folk revival and acoustic revolution and it’s traditional string bands like The Foghorn Stringband who help fuel this crucial folk reawakening. While popular music comes and goes it is folk music stands the test of time.
The Foghorn Stringband is an American old-time string band from Portland, Oregon. The band is made up of Caleb Klauder (mandolin, fiddle, vocals) Stephen ‘Sammy’ Lind (fiddle, banjo, vocals) Reeb Willms (guitar, vocals) and Nadine Landry upright bass, vocals). Their latest album “Devil In The Seat” is brimming with exuberance. The album’s biggest selling point is it’s sense of simplicity and timelessness. There is certainly catharsis at work here.
Although there is plenty of songs to be heard on this album, The Foghorn Stringband have a neat little way of keeping the listeners attention as most of the songs are short and sweet with many 2-3 minutes in length. A lot of tracks are purely instrumentation such as “Chicken Reel”, “Jailbreak”, “Lost Gal”, “Leland’s Waltz” and “Chadwell’s Station”. While “What Will We Do” scraps the instruments completely leaving the female vocalists to sing acappella. For songs like “Lost Gal” and “Leland’s Waltz” the fiddle takes front and center and really shines in the arrangement. The Leland’s Waltz features truly beautiful phrases on the fiddle. A song that will make you want to get up a waltz into the night. Perhaps one of the best songs off the album as it leaves the listener wanting more. It’s delivery is achingly tender, meditative and soft in tone. An absolute jewel.
The album has a variety of slow tracks with a handful of foot stompers’. “Old Molly Hare”, “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “Paddy On The Turnpike” are songs that you can’t help but tap your foot along to. “Mining Camp Blues” is a surprisingly catchy song filled full of yodeling. You can’t help but feel the loneliness and longing that flows through “Longing For A Home”. Its impossible to escape the feeling of a dark tormented soul in the murder ballad “Pretty Polly” while in contrast, “90 Miles An Hour” adds a bit of light humor and playfulness to the album.
Their music is distinctly Southern and Appalachian sounding and their lack of experimentation is something you either love or hate. The Foghorn Stringband take the listener back to a time of simple, well structured traditional music. Similar to other widely-known bluegrass bands that have arisen in the folk music world, “Yonder Mountain String Band”, “Old Crow Medicine Show” and “Leftover Salmon”.
“Devil In The Seat” is an album for celebration, dance and enjoyment. As an audience we desperately need strings bands like The Foghorn Stringband to help keep the music industry in tune with the bluegrass sound. “Devil In The Seat” captures the bands virtuosity and musical arranging abilities.