There is something life affirming when Americana music is stripped back to the basics and this Canadian trio (Chris Coole – banjo, John Showman – fiddle and Max Heineman- double bass) head to the hills with this excellent string driven selection of songs old and new. They might hail from north of the 49th parallel but their roots are in the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Woody Guthrie and John Hartford, a century’s worth of picking and singing to which they add their own fine compositions.
The mainstays of old time music are all here, the South, the Appalachians and the Celtic influx all conjoined in a swirl and a skirl with three of the four instrumentals here sounding as if they would be as comfortable at a barn dance as at a ceilidh (‘Strawberry Wine’ is the exception, steeped as it is in the tradition of West Virginia fiddle tunes). Scattered throughout the album they are punctuation marks amidst a set of earthy songs which range from memories of a hometown razed to the ground on ‘O’Grady Road,’ the jaunty jingoism of ‘Civil Wars’ and the flighty morning after the night before regret on ‘Never Again.’ Their take on Mississippi John Hurt’s ‘Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me’ flows wonderfully while an update of ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ equates this archetypal gangster with government looters and thieves.
With all three of the trio writing and singing lead in turns the album allows for some variety but when they lend their voices together the songs are lifted. ‘Joe Puckett And His Loving Mother,’ a song about an outlaw and his loving mum features some great harmony singing while ‘Life’s Treasure’ is almost Gregorian as the voices blend together over a mournful and lonesome fiddle. Somewhat gorgeous in its delivery, ‘When The Sun Comes Up’ is heartily recommended to any lovers of old time Americana.