Calling a band or artist “raw” is typically a subtle way to describe an unpolished sound. It’s a way to say they need more practice or that they’re not really “there” yet. But when I say that Charlie and the Foxtrots are raw, what I mean is that they are ripe with potential and pure talent. Lead singer and songwriter Charlie (or Chas) Wilson brings a wide variety of music styles to a formidable debut album.
One of the things that immediately jumps out about Charlie and the Foxtrots is that they have a unique artistic style that seems to blend together a number of important factors. With a frontman that reminds me of Buddy Holly (from the glasses to the dance moves), to the seeming play-it-all banjo-harmonica-mandolin-slide guitar player, the band has a range of different sounds, all while still being themselves. The way this band accomplishes such a tough task is by having the tour de force vocals of Chas at the helm, but a remarkable mix of time signatures for the original compositions. Putting new twists on older styles (everything from some sort of rockabilly, to folk, to roots country), they have a real, true artistry to their approach to what is most appropriately called “new folk.”
From the subtle beginning of “Mademoiselle” to the driving rhythm of “Leaving it Behind” the versatility of these young musicians is impressive. The hand clap section on “Leaving it Behind” is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The lyric, “it won’t stop… the rhythm it won’t stop… playing in my heart.” That’s inspirational and hope filled all in an infectious rhythmic song it its own right. These two tracks get the album started off right.
The album’s namesake “Evergreen Philosophy” is by far the band’s best track. I enjoyed it on first listen and with subsequent listens have come to hear the real brilliance in the track. I can’t quite put my finger on the exact meaning of the lyrics, but they seem to be reflecting on going into a relationship knowing that there will be difficulties, but deciding its worth the risk. What makes the song so incredible though is the mastery of complex music sections, especially with the vocal harmonies. The band really clicks to make the acoustic rock base work with the subtle harmonies on the chorus. It sounds like something Don Henley could have written. I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.
After that stellar track, the band gives us “Thumping,” a song about the youthful spontaneity of sexual promiscuity. It’s upbeat and a hand clapper for sure. It’s the kind of song that I could hear making its rounds on college rock stations. It’s a genre-bending track with a sort of upbeat country vibe to it, but would fit with a lot of different sounds.
“Meeting the Stone” has a bit of mystery to it with some real dark chords and sounds. With a blues chord progression at the root and some nice guitar flourishes throughout, the track shows a sophistication that will hopefully continue to develop from these gentlemen. In particular, the track does a great job of highlighting the violin as more than a country accent as a fiddle. The slide guitar, bass, and percussion fill in a bluesy backdrop to a sultry song. The vocal blending, again, projects the long term potential of this up-and-coming group.
The closing track is “Maple Leaves” that has a strong rhythm like some of the other songs on the album. The vocal harmonies on this one are pretty fun also, providing a necessary acoustic styling on the rest of the song. As with a few of the other songs on the album, it’s evident that these guys have experience with classical harmonies. It’s pretty awesome to hear how they’ve appropriated them here. “I can’t go another day with you.” It’s a simple love song lyrically with a great sing along melody. The guitar work and vocals are, again, impressive.
All told these guys are the perfect kind of band we like to write about here. They’re easy to brag on, very well accomplished musically, and well on their way to finding their artistic identity. I’ve already contacted the band about working with them on their future releases. They are well worth your time and your five bucks for the EP. If you’re a fan of Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, the Lumineers, and similar new folk bands, you really ought to give Charlie and the Foxtrots a spin. You won’t be disappointed.