Folk Ballads with Telecaster and French Horn.
Listeners to Fussell’s weekly show, co-presented with Jefferson Currie II, on Fall Line Radio will be used to an eclectic selection of music biased towards songs of the American south. Fussell is keen to point out however that, “Our our idea of “southern” is broad and inclusive and distances itself from stagnant notions of authenticity, exclusivity, and antiquity. As much as we cherish our prewar blues 78s and “old-time” fiddle tunes, we also love hip-hop, bounce, banda, and norteña”. Whilst, the latter four of these musical genres may not be in evidence on the occasion of the release of ‘Good and Green Again’, there is folk tune and balladry aplenty here to savour. Importantly, in line with the radio broadcast, there is a refusal to adhere to dogmatic notions of authenticity. What we hear instead is Fussell feeling the spirit of traditional music, bringing his own interpretations to the sonic construction of the compositions. To this end, Fussell expresses himself musically with his fingerpicked Telecaster and acoustic guitar, with haunting accompaniment being given by French Horn, Trumpet and strings.
‘Love Farewell’ commences with a foot tapping along to an acoustic guitar; Fussells’ gently husky vocals bringing a sad resignation to the follies of war. A metaphorical interpretation may also use the words, ‘marching’ and ‘retreating’ as poignant to the vagaries of love. Entwined with Fussell’s voice are the backing vocals of Bonny ‘Prince‘ Billy. ‘Carriebelle’ with its melancholy French Horn is a plea for a lover to stay; pain and realisation that the pleading is likely to go unheeded, form the emotional core of this song. ‘Breast of Glass’ has a reverbed electric hook melded with a double bass that becomes irresistible, though the song is melancholy in tone. Atmosphere and quiescence are key to this album’s strength inducing a reverie-like quality to the proceedings; ‘Frolic’ demonstrates these qualities well. This instrumental captures a delicate mood, albeit fleetingly before it vanishes before our ears. The mood generated could be likened to watching wisps of smoke in the still summer air rise, linger, then dissipate. ‘Rolling Mills are Burning Down’ mourns the loss of employment and community, featuring a gently lilting intro and more said in the spaces between the lyrics where the listener may be being invited to reflect on the sadness of the passing of time in general and the ephemeral nature of things. ‘The Golden Willow Tree’ clocks in at just over nine minutes of traditional folk balladry being the tale of the scuttling of an enemy ship. Alive in the song is a wistful yearning for something undefined and a presiding feeling of melancholy gently delivered. The closing track, ‘Washington’ inspired by a folk-art rug of the General is a satirical reflection on the myths of history with which we are all conditioned.
The best folk music speaks to us of lived experience and wisdom won at a cost. Fussell, in his subtle way, is suggesting that the power of these qualities may not necessarily be predicated on them being shared through rigid musical form, whilst not rejecting these forms outright. Where ever you may stand on this perspective, ‘Good and Green Again’ deserves to be heard and savoured by us all.