Album delivers an old-time traditional feel drawing on songs a century apart
It’s always difficult to predict what will drop through the digital letterbox into the metaphorical arms of an Americana UK reviewer. Therein lies the mystery and the thrill. The first track on any new album often sets the scene, dictating the musical journey upon which we are about to embark. So, when an opening track, ‘Sail Away Ladies’, has its roots firmly embedded in the American south in the first knockings of the last century, even a wizened and cynical old reviewer may be entitled to raise a grey eyebrow or two.
So, is this indicative of what is to come on Taco Tapes ‘Trad is Rad’? Well, the answer is both yes and no for while the sound and music on the album may be styled in the traditional, the songs employed here have a much wider origin. Yes, the traditional is represented by the aforementioned ‘Sail Away Ladies’ and ‘Whisky for Breakfast’, one of three instrumentals included. ‘The Fool’ is classified here as “fresh-folk” but retains the old time feel that is clearly the aim on this collection.
But what is this, a magnificent homage to Tom Petty with a faithful rendering of ‘Melinda’? This takes the album to its most upbeat and manages to both retain the rhythm and feel of the original whilst sitting comfortably amongst this old-time approach. The raiding of more recent sources for inspiration continues with Michelle Shocked’s ‘Black Widow’ a subtly played and lovingly interpreted piece of work.
Jeremy James Meyer and Ben Walden, like so many others of late, had time on their hands and, with nothing to do and nothing to lose, did what musicians do at times like this and made music. With the addition of Joe Hein on organ and Meyer doubling up as recording engineer the finished product has a very much raw and unimproved sound. With very little studio tinkering it has a one-take, live feel to it.
The album will appeal to lovers of a traditional, old-time music. With bits of folk and bluegrass, hints of Gaelic reels and the odd delve into the more contemporary, this is, in many ways, a curious mix that somehow manages to deliver a consistent sound that fits together pretty well as a single body of work. Its appeal may be niche but this is a lovingly crafted collection.