Yes, I do like some records that would be considered “freak-folk”, but in general I dismiss albums that are labeled with the tag. Most are just useless nonsense - artists that can’t really write good songs but throw in some tribal drumming, weird chanting, and faster-than-usual strumming and get lumped in as Devendra Banhart acolytes. Nothing like being late to a genre and using its coattails to sell a few more pieces of merch.
Anyway, State Bird is an Ohio band (a collaboration between Coby Hartzler and Jared Riblet, among other guests) who just released their sophomore effort through The Record Machine. Anyone paying attention will most likely hear the term “freak-folk“ in every State Bird review over the next few weeks and months, though it is deserving of a better fate. Mostly Ghostly is a pleasantly rag-tag collection of percolating rhythms, ever-shifting time signatures, eccentric male/female harmonies, random horn section interruptions, and driving acoustic guitar. In other words, nearly exactly what you’d expect from a freak-folk album, only better. Its saving grace is that Mostly Ghostly continually impresses with its lyrical depth and memorable melodies - effortlessly evoking a long lost time when man vs. nature wasn’t so one-sided. Images of pilgrims, Indians, ghosts, mountains, woods, light, and fire dominate the song titles - placing the setting somewhere between the untamed frontier of the Wild West and a State Park campfire with friends. The songs themselves would comfortably fit either.
After a brief album opening interlude of accordian and whistling, highlight “I Saw the Light” gets things off to a rollicking start. Its obvious allusion to the classic Hank Williams song is only a part of its charm - the rest belongs to the pristine interplay between the horns, acoustic guitar, and vocals. The lead vocals are interspersed with an off-kilter backing of assorted hollers, screams, and call-and-response shouting, which all work together beautifully and almost make you forget about those few seconds where everything drops out but the tribal drumming. Similar arrangements adorn most of these 12 tracks and make for a very enjoyable listening experience - a lovely blend of old-timey sounds (especially on another standout, “Hollerin’ Mountains”, which breaks down into about 15 seconds of spontaneous laughter at its conclusion) and some of the most listenable “freak-folk” I’ve heard.
MP3 :: I Saw the Light
MP3 :: The Golden Glowing Mask
MP3 :: What’s All That Racket In Our Haunted Attic?
(from Mostly Ghostly. Buy here)
State Bird are hitting the road, surely coming to a state near you:
Wed Mar 26 New York, NY - The Annex
Fri Mar 28 New York, NY - Fat Baby
Tue Apr 1 Akron, OH - Musica w/Cheyenne
Wed Apr 2 Marion, IN - Noah's
Thur Apr 3 Columbia, MO - East Side Tavern
Fri Apr 4 Kansas City, MO - The Record Bar
Sat Apr 5 Tulsa, OK - The Monolith w/The Non
Sun Apr 6 Denver, CO - Brooks Center Arts: Underground Tea House
Tue Apr 8 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
Fri Apr 11 Seattle, WA - Q Cafe
Sun Apr 13 Port Townsend, WA - The Boiler Room
Mon Apr 14 Portland, OR - Towne Lounge
Wed Apr 16 Mountain View, CA - Red Rock
Thur Apr 17 Pioneertown, CA - Pappy and Harriet's
Fri Apr 18 Los Angeles, CA - Brother's House Show
Sat Apr 19 Los Angeles, CA - Pehrspace
Mon Apr 21 Phoenix, AZ - The Trunk Space
Tue Apr 22 Roswell, NM - The Unity Center
Wed Apr 23 Oklahoma City, OK - The Conservatory w/The Non
Thur Apr 24 Dallas, TX - Club Dada
Fri Apr 25 Austin, TX - Hole in the Wall w/Dana Falconberry
Sat Apr 26 McAllen, TX - The Incubator
Thur May 1 Bowling Green, KY - The Brewing Company