FRONT COUNTRY – Sake Of The Sound (Own Label)

Front CountryThere are exciting things happening in the world of Americana right now, not least the debut album from the sextet from California called Front Country.

With the opening track, ‘Gospel Train’, they invent a new genre – bluegrass-soul – mixing the instrumentation and melodies of traditional bluegrass and country with the passion of soul music. It reappears again in the chorus of Utah Phillips’ ‘Rock Salt & Nails’ in which producer Kai Welch augments the voices of Melody Walker, Jacob Groopman and Jordan Klein. They’re no one-trick pony, however. Adam Roszkiewicz’s ‘Daysleeper’ is a pretty instrumental and Walker’s ‘Undertaker’ starts off quite gently but she can’t help herself and her magnificent voice gets the better of her. Either Groopman or Klein gives her a brief break on ‘Glacier Song’ but Klein’s banjo remains a dominant part of the band’s sound as does Leif Karlstrom’s fiddle.

Four of the tracks are originals but the band are imaginative in their selection of covers. Alongside Utah Phillips is Bob Dylan’s ‘Long Ago, Far Away’ and you need to be a completist to have the original of that. There are songs from young writers like Laura Wortman of The Honey Dewdrops and Sarah Siskind as well as the late Kate Wolf but all meld together under the skilled arrangements. For any band this would be a damn fine album; for a debut it’s nothing short of exceptional.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Rock Salt & Nails’ live – knockout song:

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