MONSTERS OF FOLK Ė Monsters Of Folk (Rough Trade)

I canít really work out why I got this album, as it is a collaboration between four predominantly folky US artists Ė Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, Mike Mogis from Saddle Creek, My Morning Jacketís Jim James and M. Ward Ė none of whom I particularly like, nor own anything by apart from My Morning Jacketís ĎZí. Despite this I gave some of the songs a fair listen and found that I really liked them. Jamesí ĎDear God (Sincerely MOF)í is a great pop-folk song, with a yearning vocal and lush instrumentation Ė including lovely use of a harp Ė and is quite unlike anything that I had previously heard from any of the individual membersí canon. ĎSay Pleaseí is almost heavy rock, with its riffing guitar motif and searing solo, while ĎWhole Lotta Losiníí is a driving country-rock tune. So far not much folk, but it makes an appearance with ĎTemazacalí, a typical Conor Oberst piece, but lifted by some lovely vocal harmonies on the chorus and a fuller backing than it would otherwise have been given. ĎThe Rightí Placeí is pure country, with Mogis slide guitar giving it an authentic feel, and despite country music being my least favourite genre by far, I do actually quite like this. Wardís ĎBaby Boomerí has a bar-room bounce to it, while Oberstís ĎMan Named Truthí is a great guitar-pickiní hillbilly tune. ĎAhead Of The Curveí sounds quite dreary after those two, but things pick up with ĎSlow Down Joí, which even though it is even slower than ĎAhead Of The Curveí uses a sparse production, harmony vocals, and Mogisí elegant steel guitar to make it a truly lovely song. ĎLosiní Yo Headí sees the return of the rock guitars, and the result is a fine country-rocker. ĎMagic Markerí is a lovely country/folk tune with a great Byrdsian guitar solo, and ĎSandman, The Brakeman And Meí is just a beautiful song, all the better for being under-produced and allowing the voice and guitar to carry it. James closes the album with the aching ĎHis Masterís Voiceí, one of the few songs on here that deserve the folk epithet, and another gorgeous song from the My Morning Jacket man. Looking at it logically I should hate this album, made by people I donít like in a genre that I can generally take or leave, and yet it works superbly well, and I love the whole thing. The secret is that each member has agreed to leave their individual idiosyncrasies at the door and just have a good time, and it really shows in their performances. Donít be put off by the word Ďfolkí in the name Ė take a chance and just enjoy this great collection of songs.
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