Thanks to Mumford & Sons, folk music has found a spot as a popular genre of music. It definitely has found a place in my heart, due to the thick musical wall of tons of instruments, and of course, Marcus Mumford’s rustic vocals. Since last year when this band practically took over the folk genre, more bands have arrived in the limelight. Larry And His Flask is getting big. Fleet Foxes were already big, but still have a growing fan base. And last but not least, Barren River Trio, what I like to describe as a “Christian Fleet Foxes,” is a band that should be there soon.
Their debut, American Folk, isn’t the best showcase of talent or perfection for Barren River Trio, but the band’s sound is really comforting and organic. With Fall approaching, it fits in this stronghold, with breezy afternoons and colorful leaves impending. The thing I like most about the debut is the passion contained in it. Like more backcountry-sounding folk, it thrusts through in nice portions of acoustic guitar; for example, the heavenly riff in “Dreams,” and a diverse set of folk-like instruments, such as the beautiful use of the mandolin in “Run” and “Amazing Grace” (no, it’s not a cover of the popular hymn). Then there’s the harmonica in “Shine the Light” and “Far Beyond,” perfectly complementing the guitar, making me almost feel the presence of Neil Young.
Having all three members contribute to vocals definitely is a big help; they all bring their own tone to the music. Though they don’t have astonishing range or crazy highs/lows, they fit snugly along with the wonderful instrumentation of American Folk, especially in “Scarlett,” a more energetic country ballad, and “Weight of the World,” the most heartfelt song on the record. In “Run,” Alex Day’s vocals are beautifully cemented in front of the emotional guitar and mandolin, while some backing vocals put the emphasis on the song’s title, helping implant the song’s faithful message into the listener’s mind. It’s a song that exemplifies the band’s positive message.
American Folk is a solid debut for Barren River Trio. This album is easy to pick up and get into any time, bringing with it the feelings of hope and faith, in addition to a more emotion-based appeal than a lot of folk groups. Not to mention, this record also clocks in at over an hour. Even though it feels a bit restrained and lacks variety at times, it definitely is one of the more enjoyable folk releases of 2011. I see bright things in the future for these guys, and this record is a great start to what should be a fairly successful career for Barren River Trio, today’s best Christian folk band.
If you want to hear all of American Folk for yourself, click here.