Friday, February 24, 2012

Folk Briefs

Not Exactly Kumbaya

I've spoken a few times about "dark Americana", or a dark folk/country mix. It's sometimes called Gothic Americana. Here is the whole Wikipedia article on the topic:
Gothic Americana is a style of alternative country that fuses Americana music (neotraditional country, progressive country, outlaw country, country rock, rockabilly, folk rock, bluegrass music, blues, rhythm and blues) with elements of gothic rock, gothabilly, psychobilly, deathcountry. The main representatives of that music are the musicians of Denver music scene: 16 Horsepower, Wovenhand, Lilium, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Jay Munly, as well as other American (Willard Grant Conspiracy, Reverend Red) or even European bands (Helldorado).
In an effort to possibly destroy any credibility I have left (considering my Pantera article earlier this week), I'm going to talk about some of my exploration of this genre and related dark folk/country music, even if not properly considered Americana.

Wovenhand: Wovenhand (2002)

Wovenhand (sometimes written as Woven Hand) is the solo band of the father of Gothic Americana, David Eugene Edwards (previously of 16 Horsepower), and it's been my main focal point for exploring this sound. I have most of the band's albums, and I love every one of them. Their self-titled debut features a few tracks that appear in different versions later in their discography, but it's nice to hear each version. The music is dark, catchy, and musically quite diverse, with a menagerie of different instruments and production techniques making each cut unique. My favorite is "Your Russia". It's not as good as some of the band's later work, but is still excellent, deserving a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Espers: The Weed Tree (2005)

If you have any doubt that folk music can be awesome, just check out the Espers cover of Blue Öyster Cult's classic "Flaming Telepaths". While that's the only track on The Weed Tree to feature distorted electric guitar, there is no shortage of awesomeness on here. The record overall has a psychedelic vibe similar vibe to Hexvessel, and also bears resemblance to my favorite album of 2011, SubRosa's No Help for the Mighty Ones--if you take all the heavy out of it. It's mostly filled with cover songs, each with varying degrees of quality ("Rosemary Lane" is good, "Tomorrow" is bad), but it should give you an idea of the group's very soft, low-key, simultaneously light and dark sound. Because the one original tune is excellent, I'll be looking further into their discography. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Stone Breath: The Long Lost Friend: A Patchwork (2003)

Well, you can't win them all, I guess. At first, Stone Breath seemed like a mix of Wovenhand and Espers. But then I got halfway through this compilation, and I was just bored. And then I heard their version of "The House Carpenter" (which was done so well by SubRosa) and I was a little disgusted. There are elements of this that I like, but not enough of it. Perhaps their studio albums or even their EPs standing alone are better, but this is just too much, with too little to hold my interest. I give it 1 out of 5 stars.


  1. Espers II is a great album, and probably the darkest one they've recorded. Great list! I'd also recommend Angels of Light highly (If you haven't already heard it. It's Michael Gira from Swans dark-folk band) Reverend Glasseye is also great. Less known (but no less important), is my friend's band Strawfoot. You can find it on youtube. Good post! There is definitely a correlation between metal and dark folk music (i.e. Cobalt's 'Gin")

  2. Thanks! Angels of Light is on my to-check-out list, but the other ones are new to me.

  3. My favorite Wovenhand track as well; though I prefer 16 Horsepower in general (Secret South being the best, I think).

    I highly highly recommend an EP called "Carthage" by Euclid. A bit hard to fine, but easily my favorite of the genre:

    The lead singer went on to form Palodine, which is also worth checking out.

  4. Big, big Fan of Wovenhand here...even saw them live in San Francisco last year and they blew me away. David looks like a younger, more insane Tom Petty (to me) and he put on a hell of a show (since hell is where most of us are going according to his dour Calvisnism, lol) but his band was pretty icnredible, too. That bassist just stood there and laid an incredible bass line, along with the absolutely killer drummer.

  5. It's a little too self conscioussly wierd...and it does drag a bit, but you might check out, on Bandcamp, Devil Horse as well.

  6. Thanks for the tip!

    Speaking of Calvinism, I'm actually a member of a Presbyterian church (although I was raised Lutheran and still hold mostly Lutheran beliefs, well, family necessitates compromise). I can't grasp how anyone could go all-in on Calvinist ideas. If you take free will out of the equation, nothing about the universe makes sense. My pastor tried to tell me that predestination and free will work together, but I didn't have a chance to fully explore what he was trying to tell me.