I’m a massive fan of indie folk music (and just outright folk music). The Decemberists, The Mountain Goats, Fleet Foxes, Okkervil River; you name it, and if it’s got that roots-y, fiddle-and-banjo-and-vaguely-modal-vocals, I love it. So imagine my delight at discovering Toronto-based folk-punk band, Scoop Trumbull & The Wrong Notes, and their upcoming album Pull the Cork. After listening to the three tracks on their album preview (which can be found here), I was convinced that I’d have to make room on my playlist, as soon as it’s released. Blending pre-war folk music with a dash of punk, these guys really make me proud to call Toronto home (#SuckItTennessee). So, what’s so exciting about three measly tracks? Well . . .
‘The River’ starts off as a pure voice and banjo affair, like so many other folk songs. It starts growing in size, adding in the main chorus, until around the forty-seconds mark, when it blossoms into a full fledged, no-nonsense opening track. A brooding, moody bass accompaniment serves as a backing counterpoint to the banjo ostinato. Around them, a trio comprised of acoustic guitar, fiddle, and harmonica drive the song forward at a steady clip. Around the one-minute-and-seventeen-seconds mark the song really hits its stride, growing into a somewhat menacing, decisive ballad. Lyrics like “You’ve gotta live with what you’ve done” and “Saw a young boy standing there / Holding all my sins” outline the song’s cautionary tale. It’s very much an old-timey, somewhat accusatory, “your actions have repercussions,” regret-filled sort of ballad, in the vein of traditional folk songs like ‘Darling Corey’ and ‘Katie Cruel’. I’m actually surprised (and extremely impressed) that this isn’t a traditional folk tune (or at least a modern version of one). It’s so convincingly written (both lyrically and musically), that you could easily picture it being sung out on the trails, back when Canada’s tree-to-people ratio was still in the trees‘ favour.
‘Tombstones, Glass Tombstones’ takes a step back (and sideways) from ‘River’s darker tone. It’s an out and out jig that will make it nigh impossible for you to keep from tapping your foot to the rhythm. The vocals on this track (as well as the subject matter) remind me a little bit of the Decemberists, albeit, by route of the Dropkick Murphys (minus the Murphys’ grunge). A duo of guitar and banjo keep this fast-paced dance reel flowing, with intricate fingerwork, worthy of any traditional jig. Around the three-minute-and-twelve-seconds mark, the track takes a turn for the more contemplative, and the lyrics of “Don’t let me fall into this world that I hate / Just pray it’s not too late” further strengthen the undercurrent of melancholy that runs just beneath the track’s surface. All in all, this track has it all: a rousing barroom refrain, a driving jig reel, and enough though-provoking, living-to-die type subtext to make it worth several listens.
‘My Girl Doesn’t Like Me When I’m Sober’ is a straight-up bar song, and I abso-friggin-lutely love it. Combining melodious, surprisingly heartfelt vocals, with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour, it might just be my favourite of the three songs (and I seriously love the previous two). The song gets its title from the lyric “My girl doesn’t like me when I’m sober / Calls me dumb, stupid, boring, and obtuse”, which gives you a feel for the tragicomic feel of the whole, sorry story of a man who gives up the bottle for a month, only to find that his sober persona drives his lady off faster than you can order a fifth of bourbon. The whole song and chorus give off a powerful sense that they were recorded in a bar(n), while most (if not all) of the individuals involved were half soused. This works to incredible effect, and you can practically see this song being sung at a neighbourhood pub (right down to what sounds suspiciously like a burp in the background at the very end).
I can’t believe how much I’ve been listening to this preview album. It’s even harder to believe that it’s only three tracks long. It’s so entertaining and so well put together that you’ll have it on repeat all day (and won’t even realize that it’s not even a full album).
I seriously can’t wait to hear the whole thing. If these three tracks are anything to go by, it’s going to be an awesome affair.
Ty Trumbull, you have one hell of a band, one hell of an album, and I’d love to stand you a drink for recording it.
Release date: When it’s ready.
You can check out Scoop Trumbull & The Wrong Notes at their very own site, scooptrumbull.ca.