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Southern Tenant Folk Union - Join Forces (Johnny Rock Records)
There's an immediate warmth about STFU's 7th album that draws the listener in, allowing you to draw warmth from the glow of their humanity in the face of the bleak world outside. While the musical eclecticism is there, mixing Celtic, Americana, bluegrass and folk influences into a soul nourishing whole, the lyrical content is focussed, with political commentary reflecting the album's title throughout. Join Forces reflects the anger, despair and sheer disbelief the band feels at the current state of the world – albeit apparently written and recorded pre-Brexit and Trump - and the wish for people to come together to oppose the growing forces of negativity – so titles like What Would You Give For A Leader With Soul? and Our Revolution Will One Day Come are probably even more prescient than they realised at the time of recording.
Despite the concern expressed in the lyrics, this is an album with an overall positive feel – yes, the vocals of Rory Butler can have elements of wistfulness and melancholy but there is a generally positive feel to the songs and moments of sheer beauty when the voices of band members combine. Musically there is some notable wizardry, with the banjo of Pat McGarvey and the violin of Katherine Stewart particularly deserving of mention but the dexterity is always used to serve rather than dominate the songs and is all the more enjoyable for that.
As a newcomer to the band, there's enough here that relates to musical favourites that influences can be spotted and enjoyed, whilst kindling a desire to investigate their back catalogue and the opportunity to see them live. Nice!