Great American landscapes inspire lush folk songs.
Describing themselves as indie-folk, National Park Radio have slowly and determinedly been building their profile since being formed by husband and wife duo, Stefan and Kerrie Szabo. Having roots in the Ozark Mountains has meant that the band are more than adept at using America’s many and varied landscapes as metaphors for age-old human conditions and challenges. ‘Canyons’ is National Park Radio’s first full-length album in over five years. Moreover, in 2022 the band’s fans raised $60,000 to enable them to go to Nashville to record their songs with a fully developed sound, rather than their previous DIY approach. They spent their money with Nashville-based producer Nick Bullock and ‘Canyons’ is the result. Existing fans of the band will probably have heard most or all of the songs on the album because each track has been released as a single prior to the full album’s formal release.
National Park Radio state their manifesto from the get-go with the opening track and lead single, ‘Wander’, which is about the journey and not necessarily the destination. The sound echoes the current-day sounds of Mumford And Sons, but there is also a more timeless older element to the voices of the Szabos riding on top of drums, bass, piano, keyboards and a hint of banjo. Travel is at the heart of a tale about a failing relationship, ‘Long, Long Night’ which is also a mini-travelogue. The band invokes images of American landscapes, and ‘New Mexico’ could be called a power ballad with folk touches among the keyboard washes. The voices of Stefan and Kerrie have a musical dialogue as they refuse to let an argument harm their relationship in ‘When The Morning Comes’. There is a yearning to ‘Remember The Coast’ and the reminiscing about lost love. Kerrie’s vocals are featured on ‘Don’t Give Up The Ghost’ with its advice to meet what life throws at you head-on. We are reminded of what is important in life as Stefan sings ‘Here With Me’. America has its fair share of canyons and the title track ‘Canyons’ uses them as a metaphor for being lost in fear and self-doubt. The redwood trees of California provide some of the most inspiring landscapes in America, so it is no surprise they feature in ‘Gone To California’. Living a life without regret is the subject of bluegrass-tinged ‘I’ll Do It All Again’. The final track ‘Stand Up’ ensures National Park Radio go out on an upbeat musical note of being true to one’s self.
With the help of their fans, National Park Radio have recorded an album that maintains their close relationship with the great American landscapes and with a contemporary-sounding, and for them, a lush backdrop for their take on timeless folk music. Anyone who likes the modern folk sound of Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Avett Brothers may have their interest piqued by ‘Canyons’, and if there is enough interest in National Park Radio’s fuller sound they may have the opportunity to continue to develop their sound on their next release.