Susquehanna Hat Company- For Love of the River

The Susquehanna Hat Company. For Love of the River.
Susquehanna Hat Company/CDBaby, 2013.

The Susquehanna Hat Company formed in 2010 with an accordion and banjo, and soon joined forces with a bass harmonica, fiddle, and guitar.  Sharing a name with a classic Abbott and Costello skit, they also share that whimsy and nostalgia for a bygone era.  They find a certain pride in their eccentricity of instrumentation, and draw from Appalachia, psychedelic rock, and Eastern European influences, among others.  Their geographic place is currently Austin, Texas, but their cultural place pulls together many sounds and traditions.  Besides standard gigs, SHC frequently busks as well.  Their first album, For Love of the River, consists of a dozen original tracks recorded over three days and crowd-funded on Go Fund Me.

The songs on For Love of the River are rousing and zany, sounding like a more Americana-inspired Gogol Bordello, or Ohio River bottomland meets Romani troupe.  The opening (and title) track begins a lively album, and sets the stage for quite a musical joyride.  Beware Them East Texas Bottom Land Witches has a darker tone, but is still well-done and not outside the norm for many traditional folk groups. Southbound to Slaughter seems a fitting autumnal or Halloween tune, and borders on a dirge.  That being said, the talent and technical skill are apparent even in this modality.  Moving out of the low end of and into less dark lyrics, Silver Spun Silk is reminiscent of a European fairy tale, but not quite the Grimm’s tales.  Eureka has a very banjo-forward sound that changes up the pace of the album nicely, and Adam’s Sermon in D Minor brings everything closer to the place where the album began, tonally.  Pushing the reset button on the darker stuff, O’Nameless One is back to jumping, swinging music that is easily danceable.  Lacy Elm’s Kiss starts off with pure music and it’s nearly two minutes before any vocals enter, and ends like so many traditional ballads- upbeat music with less than happy lyrics.  To follow up, the next tune- Ship of Leaves- has more accordion but is otherwise a good maintenance song, leaving the listener in this emotional space for a bit longer.  The tone stays even keel through Shovel Step, as well, with a gravelly voice, that sits on solid musical ground.  Felidae Saga is another piece that starts as pure music, balanced between the various instruments, with the addition of vocals playing a key role in the overall sound once it appears.  To finish out the album, Ballad of Rusty Macklinton is slow but strong, and low but not dragging.

In the season for bonfires and leaf piles, For Love of the River is a great accompaniment to some hot cider, whether you like it hot, mulled, or both.

Personnel: Adam Kobetich (banjo, vocals), Mila Ringo (accordion, vocals), Michael Rubin (bass harmonica), Austin Smith (fiddle)

Tracks: For Love of the River, Beware Them East Texas Bottom Land Witches, Southbound to Slaughter, Silver Spun Silk, Eureka, Adams’ Sermon in D Minor, O’Nameless One, Lacy Elm’s Kiss, Ship of Leaves, Shovel Step, The Felidae Saga, The Ballad of Rusty Macklinton

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