Folk for friends and family.
Hailing from Adelaide, South Australia, Sturt Avenue is the musical project of singer/song writer Bryn Soden and this, the band’s debut album, is a true communal affair. The band’s name is taken from the street where Soden grew up and band members include his dad John on guitars, sister Tarn on harmonium and vocals, and three close mates making up the rhythm section and keyboards. The album title, as Soden explains, “…is in essence the question I was asking each of the band members as we brought these songs together. While the lyrics and chord progressions were written by me, when it came to the process of turning them into actual real-life songs, my goal was to give everybody the space to do what they do best.” So, egalitarian then.
This is a heartfelt collection of songs, with a modicum of nostalgia and maybe a touch melancholic in places but with an optimistic vision throughout. Songs feel like some kind of throwback, with almost an innocence, a simplicity with no hidden agendas. There is a little country, some blues, but this is most assuredly a folk album.
The optimism and sunny vibe to the album are highlighted in tracks such as ‘Bell Curve Blues’ where although life is dull, there is much to look forward to including “cheese toasties in the afternoon”; ‘Over Everything’, one for a summer’s afternoon, all light and positive…”so let the good times roll/until the fire’s burning low”; and ‘Flowers on the Sill’ reflects on the joy of the family home and the hope for brighter futures for everyone growing up in the house. Lyrically there are some interesting observations throughout, including on ‘Falling’, a bluesy number warning of the perils of falling hard in love….”But falling in love/was a rope around your neck….”
Standout tracks top and tail the record; ‘Cannery Row’ is a delightful acoustic number, awakening to the day after the drunken night before…”Fell asleep in last night’s clothes/Next to last night’s companions, filled with last night’s hope”; and ‘Stay’, setting up space in someone’s heart to stay… ”and I hope you know/That if I ever leave it’s only for a while/’cause in your heart is the only place I’ve ever wanted to stay.”
Musically, it’s a relatively simple affair, although there is some good blues guitar in places and influences such as The Mountain Goats and even Mumford & Sons can be detected. Some of the material is a touch homogenous and it will be interesting to see how Soden’s songwriting skills mature as future albums are developed in order to create diversity.