Often times, collaborations turn out to be much hype and excitement but very little execution. But sometimes, as if by magic, different artists come together after making wildly different music and produce something unique and incredible. Fiction Family is the moniker adopted by Jon Foreman, frontman of Switchfoot, and Sean Watkins, former guitarist and vocalist of Nickel Creek. Their newest album Reunion (as in Fiction Family Reunion) is a well balanced, expertly crafted collaboration that dips into many genres and does all of them flawlessly.
What’s immediately apparent from this album is that Watkins and Foreman are masters of the genres that they so effortlessly represent, folk/bluegrass and rock. There’s a mix of songs on the album, with both musicians singing, and each one is a perfectly crafted in style, content, and overall sound. A few of these songs were on their Christmas EP that I wrote about earlier in the year, including “Up Against the Wall” and “Damaged”, both of which are great songs, but if you want to read about them, you can click here as we’ll be focusing on the other songs.
One of the really unique things about this album is that, after a couple of listens, it becomes difficult to tell the two voices apart. Both men have distinct voices, but the music that they create finds a way to blend the sounds into one. I found it difficult to tell them apart and that’s a great thing. “Give Me Nacl My Girl” is a rock song, one that sounds like a Switchfoot b-side thanks to Foreman’s voice. It sounds like a traditional rock love song with lines like “when the cities dark with melancholy chords” and “You can have Los Angeles, just give me back my girl./ Yeah, you can keep your angels, just give me back my girl.” Perhaps the most uplifting song on the album is “God Badge”, a song that asks us to “Put the God Badge down and love someone.” From Foreman and his not so subtly Christian band, this is the kind of song you hope for. Perhaps the best line on the album is from this song: “There is no us and them,/ There’s only folks that you do and don’t understand./ Unlock your heart and love someone.”
Next comes a trio of sub-3 minute tracks, “Never Call” is a slow Watkins song that talks about having everything but never using it. “Just Rob Me” is a really fun mini-ballad, in the vein of Bob Dylan, of a man who meets a woman who wants to be “an outlaw” but realizes that she’s no good at being a thief. After meeting her, he says “Don’t be so foolish, don’t be so quick to leave this life of crime. Now, I’ll be quick to call it, you can practice on my wallet. That way if you’re caught, you won’t do time.” As far as ballads go, this is one of the most fun and shortest I’ve ever heard. Finally, there’s “Reality Calls”, about a man who refuses to acknowledge the situations around him. “Reality calls and I just let it ring.”
The last song on the album is “Fool’s Gold” and will most certainly be near the top of my end of the year list. I originally thought the title was “In the Ashes of Rock n’ Roll” and that would be an appropriate title, one as epic and grand in scope as the song is. It’s a song that’s got so much emotion, so much poetry that I’m not sure what to say about it, so I won’t. Here’s “Fool’s Gold”.