It’s been a while since country and rock were as close as conjoined twins. In fact, they’ve been distant cousins these past few years. What do we have in that genre instead? Mostly ‘Tailgate Country,’ where the tunes are all about sitting on the back of a station wagon, hanging out with pretty gals and drinking a couple of non-alcoholic beers. Sure, somewhere on these discs there are carefully mixed electric guitars and other non-threatening elements. But where’s the hard rockin’, emotionally powerful edge? Songs with real feelings, stories where the stakes are high? Well, dear readers, that’s where Folk Soul Revival comes in. Their new, self-titled disc, is easily the most raw, real and exciting band this writer has heard in a dog’s age. Think Jason Isbell, Creedence, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Sounds exciting right? It is.
Daniel Davis is the lead singer and main writer of the band. Even though he’s from Bristol Virginia, his interests and influences are all over the map.
“One of the first guys I remember liking was Roger Miller,” says Davis in an easygoing southern accent. “He was kind of country, but he was so clever and poppy that he was able to be on AM radio. But just as much as I liked him, I was also into CCR, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dr. Hook. The rest of the guys are also eclectic. Our drummer digs jazz, our guitar player loves country. We try and fold all this stuff into our music. Which is maybe why people are responding to it. We don’t hide anything about who we are and what we like.”
Wait until you hear this red hot rocket of a disc. The first song (and single), “Other Side,” will make you a believer, in case you don’t believe me. This humdinger of a tune manages to bang all the right buttons in about 3 minutes. How to describe this song? It’s as fast and nimble as a country swing song, as witty as the aforementioned Mr. Miller and as hard rocking as it gets, with fiddle, pedal steel and hot electric guitars crazy and unchained. You haven’t heard anything this committed and really righteous in a long, long time. Especially when the band sports the firepower of guys like Justin Venable on baritone guitar, Brandon Sturgill on bass, Chad Light on guitar and pedal steel and Justin Louthian on drums.
As versatile as they are gifted, you’ll also have to watch out for the weeper “Dance With Me.” Mr. Davis’s favorite song on the album. This is the tune that will restore your hopes if you’ve been crying out for real country. It’s as slow and heartbreaking as George Jones, and features folkish harmonies and beautifully-sad words. All without sounding slavish or overly indebted to the past. Then there’s “Small Town,” which sports that fiddle, more steel and banjo and also really throws down. Is it all this good? Yep. Everything Americana listeners have been searching for and not finding. They may not sound like the Sex Pistols, but They Mean It Man!
Still, with all the talent they possess, Davis knows that a great album is no guarantee to getting into the promised land. The songwriter sounds sort of optimistic about things, but hedges his bet just a little.
“I hear we were spun over 80 times at Americana radio last week,” he says with happy cautiousness. “That’s great. We’re right near Alejandro Escovedo on the Americana charts. But we’re pretty practical. Despite all the gigs we play each year, we’ve all held onto our day jobs. I guess it’s because we want to really play what we want-with no compromises. We don’t want money messing things up. If we become huge that’s great. But the main thing is being true to ourselves. You have to be able to live with what you’re doing.”
Trust me. These guys may be living alone right now with their head-spinning, catchy tunes. But that won’t last much longer. Pretty soon their songs will be sharing quarters with large numbers of real music lovers. So, make room in your house. Folk Soul Revival is moving in!