Do you find yourself needing some more fresh air in your life? Well, we have found a band that was borne from fresh air and moonlight. They are masters of that fresh, summer, old timey sound. It reminds me of square dancing at summer camp–in a good way. I loved square dancing at summer camp. If you didn’t like square dancing at summer camp, or never experienced that magic, it also reminds me of summer nights in the Adirondack Mountains: lakes, mountains, fresh air, campfire stories, hairy men, and timeless fun. These three guys are from Ontario, and I am sure that they are no strangers to these sorts of nights. They’ve captured them beautifully on this album.
The first song was written by the band and is definitely my favorite. I just love original music and would love to see more of it from this band. Their style matches perfectly with the classic, old time songs on the rest of the album. “For Canmore” is brisk and upbeat with lots of fingerpicking and tight three-part harmony. It’s about the actual town of Canmore, Alberta which suffered some terrible flooding in June of 2013. It’s a comforting song about waiting out the flood waters with a bottle of whisky. “Don’t you worry, baby, I’ll keep you nice and dry.”
“Frankie n’ Johnny” is famous as an Elvis song. It was originally played with brass and piano and The King’s oh-so-sweet crooning voice. Goodness, how I love Elvis, but this adaptation is just wonderful. The song itself is tragic. Frankie and Johnny were in love, he cheated, she found out, she shot him. The Noisy Locomotive’s rendition really pays attention to the storytelling. I love the upbeat banjo, the harmonies are just fantastic. It sounds older than Elvis, a pioneer, homesteader, deep forest, different kind of classic.
“Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” was sung by Flatt and Scruggs. This rendition is the same upbeat, harmonious song, but it’s been mellowed out a bit. It has some extra input from the mandolin and banjo, the melody is held up as a priority. My favorite part was an interlude featuring a fierce bit of kazoo.
The true beauty of this album is “St. Anne’s Reel” which they’ve gently pulled up from its traditional irish roots and re-planted in a patch of prosperous blue grass surrounded by stomping feet and little yellow flowers. This instrumental piece is usually carried by fiddle, but has found a new friend in the banjo and mandolin. It feels like Heidi dancing in the sweet mountain air, free, light, old-timey, beautiful.
The final song “In the Pines” is a traditional song, originally recorded by Leadbelly, but also covered by Nirvana. This rendition is closer musically to the Leadbelly version but haunting and beautiful like the Nirvana one. It’s another sad song. Many traditional songs are sad, bordering on tragic. It’s about a girl who sleeps outside in the cold under the pine trees after her husband is killed by a train. The story is presented slowly, paying attention to the emotion at hand. The instrumentals are quick and twangy. They give the music energy without lifting its spirits enough to be disrespectful.
The Noisy Locomotive has a really fantastic sound. They released their five song album about a month ago. It’s available for download on bandcamp for a name-your-price donation which is awesome. They’re putting some really fresh music into your hands. Take advantage of it, support the band. They are going to have some new, original work coming out soon–get excited. I really enjoyed the skill and passion that went into these songs. The arrangements suit the voices and instrumentals so perfectly, it’s great road trip music, camping music, canoeing music (is that a thing), perfectly suited for any time you need some fresh air.