A little disjointed and a feeling of incompleteness.
Hailing from Minneapolis – in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons recently – Soo Line Loons have produced as their eponymous album what can most definitely be described as americana (if that is possible)….craggy vocals, slide and pedal steel guitars, harmonica, fiddle and horns, singing songs about old mills, getting drunk in the middle of the day, the blues and so on. But within all this there is a problem and one that is very distracting.
There is just so much going on, so much squeezed onto almost every track which overall provides a sense of imbalance. To add to this, unnecessary sound effects such as a flowing river (‘The Old Mill’), people ‘hub-hubbing’ and a truck starting up to signify “That’s how I’m getting out” (top and tail of ‘Been a Long Winter’) and clock bells chiming (the end of ‘Don’t Let Me Go’, although this could be to pad out a track that is only two minutes thirty) don’t exactly help to reduce the overwhelming feeling of clutter. The album feels disjointed, messy somehow, and it is as if this isn’t the final mix.
There are regular changes in pace and rhythm on a number of tracks which can be a little jarring. An example of the ‘more-is-less’ approach of the record is the sax on ‘Die Young’ which must have been paid by the note as it is played almost nonstop, across the vocal throughout the verses and chorus, as a solo and to close. The album goes a little off-piste with ‘Funktry’, a track of just over one minute long, which is just not in sync with the rest of the material. Which is fine, just unexpected. ‘Hope’ has a catchy singalong hook and closer ‘Amen’ feels almost like a homage to another favourite Minneapolis son, Prince. But an appropriate way to end the album in both music and word.
The storytelling influences – for example John Prine, Springsteen – are obvious, but this is a short album with only nine tracks, including the one minuter mentioned earlier and therefore it all feels a little incomplete. It is untidy and with perhaps a crisper production this collection of songs could be more enjoyable.