With a foundation in traditional music, Front Country has advanced its music skillfully with something they dub “roots pop.” The quintet—Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin, banjo, vocals), Jacob Groopman (guitar, reso-guitar, mandolin, vocals) Jeremy Darrow (bass), Leif Karlstrom (five-string violin), and Melody Walker (vocals, guitar, percussion)—developed part of its unique sound out of the progressive bluegrass jams in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Hints of bluegrass are heard on the David Olney tune “Millionaire” that Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum recorded on The Oak And The Laurel. By the way, Lewis shares her vocals on another track, “Lonesome Town.” Besides Walker’s incredible soulful voice, she also contributes her clever songwriting on eight of the twelve tracks. Check out these lyrics on the lead-off track “If Something Breaks”: We can love like a well-oiled machine / We can love like something that your mama never seen, even in her dreams / We can fight till the cows come home / We can yell like a lonesome moonlight freight train whistle blows and say what we don’t mean. Then, there’s “I Don’t Wanna Die Angry,” on which a lover cries out for another chance in the volatile relationship: Every time we touch, it feels like the first night / And every time we kiss, it feels like the last try / I’ve been writing you letters, trying to make it alright / But every time we fight, it feels like a goodbye. Roszkiewicz showcases his abilities to compose instrumentals with “T.H.A.T.S.” (The Humpback And The Sloth) and “Sometimes It Does,” a title derived from a story about Bill Monroe. According to the liner notes, “Legend has it that the first E string of his mandolin kept getting caught under one of the frets during a solo, which resulted in some interesting and unconventional harmonies. When asked about this, Monroe replied, ‘Well, sometimes it does.’” The only other cover on the disc is the Carter Family’s “Storms Are On The Ocean,” they recorded with a bluesy-rock feel.
Woody Platt of Steep Canyon Rangers gave his thumbs up to the group. For the new disc he wrote, “As you dig in, you might also hear moments that feel like the classic rock of Fleetwood Mac or The Police, as well as the modern country sounds of the Dixie Chicks or Chris Stapleton.” It’s hard to accurately describe just what Front Country is, but one thing is certain, they are indescribably great. (Organic Records, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.frontcountryband.com.)BC