Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16, 2009: Frontier Ruckus

Welcome back! I trust everyone had a lovely week and a good Valentine's Day.

This week's CD is The Orion Songbook by Frontier Ruckus. I hesitate to call it a folk album, not because it isn't but because I don't want to scare anyone off. But I'll be brave, yes; I'm talking about a folk record. There are banjos, acoustic guitars, and (gulp!) even a saw.

But there are also some of the most amazing lyrics I've ever heard, dark atmospheres, and beautiful, unique voices.

Let's talk about the lyrics. They feel like poetry. All good poetry especially that which is going to end up as song lyrics, has a sense of rhythm. Matthew Milia's words are not only chosen for meaning, it's clear that he assembled them based on their sound and rhythm. One of my favorite phrases comes from "The Latter Days," the second track. "I know that I am all bitterness and tart/Anatomy to me is a homesick stomach and a broken heart".

Something I feel constantly while listening to this album is haunted. The lyrics are rich with the past, and the spiraling banjo (expertly played by David Jones) along with the singing saw (Zach Nichols) create a sense of longing. Even in the more upbeat songs like "Mount Marcy" with its rolling waves of banjo and happy trumpet there is a tinge of melancholy. Some of the tracks have more or less of this sense, but it's always there, a backdrop of ghosts and undealt-with past.

I think my favorite track on this album (though this probably changes every time I listen to it) is "The Blood". It starts off simply, with piano, the barely perceptible banjo, minimal percussion (Ryan Etzcorn) and guitar. Milia's quirky voice and Anna Burch's high clear one blend to create beautiful harmonies. When the chorus comes along, with the soaring words "And you were sure/that you had the blood/that you had the blood/that all is made of/and that is alright/ that is alright/ I can't think of a better dove/ to carry the blood. The whole song is colored with religious references, and it feels a little like a revival.

You should check out this CD if you like something you can listen to endlessly and always discover something new, especially if you pull out the handwritten lyric sheet. You should also see them live, if you get the chance. They've got a few local shows coming up in addition to what seems like a US tour. Below are their local stops:

March 5 -- Mac’s Bar (Lansing)

March 21 -- Blind Pig (Ann Arbor) -- w/ Chris Bathgate, Charlene Kaye

Mar 27 2009 -- The Crofoot (Pontiac)

Apr 9 2009 -- MSU Union Ballroom (East Lansing) -- w/ Koufax

The Orion Songbook is CD-1376 at the Ferndale Public Library. You can visit Frontier Ruckus at their website

What You Should See this Week

Monday 2 /16/09 – Lager House (Detroit) -- Kommie Kilpatrick -- Turbo Fruits -- The Decks – Beekeepers
Enjoy the 60s-rock-inspired Decks!

Monday 2/16/09 -- Pike Room (Pontiac) -- Thank You -- Mi Ami --Child Bite
Go see the collection of fabulous beards known as Child Bite. You will not be disappointed. In the music. The beards might put you off a little.

Tuesday 2/17/09

Wednesday 2/18/09

Thursday 2/19/09 -- Magic Stick (Detroit) -- Farewell Republic -- The Satin Peaches -- JSB Squad

Thursday 2/19/09 -- Lager House (Detroit) Shiftless Decay Thursdays -- Human Eye -- Heroes & Villains
Come and see two more bands from X! Records play two sets each! You can pick up the Shiftless Decay Compilation on CD this week! That’s what I’ll be doing!

Friday 2/20/09 -- AJ’s CafĂ© (Ferndale) -- New Grenada

Friday 2/20/09 -- The Berkley Front (Berkley) -- The High Strung
The High Strung is fun and poppy. Plus, they’re well-known for playing shows at libraries. What’s not to love.

Saturday 2/21/09 -- Pike Room (Pontiac) -- Millions of Brazilians (EP Release) -- Deastro -- Silverghost

Saturday 2/21/09 -- Small’s (Hamtramck) -- The High Strung -- Chase the Radio -- Shoe

Saturday 2/21/09 -- (Magic Bag) -- Mick Bassett & The Marthas (CD Release) -- Back In Spades
I must have this CD.

Saturday 2/21/09 -- Elbow Room (Ypsilanti) -- Chris Bathgate -- Black Jake & The Carnies -- Drunken Barn Dance -- JENNY'S BIRTHDAY
I’m not sure who Jenny is, but this is gonna be one heck of a birthday! Chris Bathgate is always a delight to see, whether he’s playing solo or with nine musicians; Black Jake and the Carnies’ brand of bluegrass will have you slapping your knee and singing along; and Drunken Barn Dance’s spirited folk tunes will make this a great evening

Saturday 2/21/09 -- The Blind Pig (Ann Arbor) The Von Bondies -- Nico Vega -- Lightning Love
Local boys done good, The Von Bondies just put out a new album. Check out their signature Detroit garage rock. Plus, well, you know how I feel about Lightning Love.

1 comment:

  1. I agree on the album. Folk, but not overly so. Haunting all they way through, due in part to his singing, I would think, as well as the music and lyrics. I love the vocal harmonies, the saw really makes a few of the songs. Quite a lovely work overall. Good pick!