Have Gun, Will Travel is almost a stereotypical folk band. Start with acoustic guitars, add vocals, clapping, harmonica, good storytelling, and great harmonies, and stir. It’s everything we talk about and that’s not a bad thing. When it’s done well and there’s something worthwhile in the lyrics, these bands make up a huge part of what we do. Have Gun, Will Travel is a shining example of contemporary folk music and one that makes up excited to hear more.
Fiction, Fact, or Folktale? opens with it’s best foot forward on “Standing at the End of the World”. This song is a perfect example of folk songwriting. It starts with an acoustic guitar, clapping and a harmonica. From there, the song builds to one about watching the world change and realizing the beauty of “the end of the world”. This song most certainly would have been on my top songs list in 2013. “Trouble” is the kind of song that sets the tone for the album, a song that sounds like a song written by a band called Have Gun, Will Travel. It evokes the Old West, lonely cowboy rides, and a rough life. “I’ve been down, down, down, till I’m crawling on the ground…/ Trouble comes from every side.”
“At the end of the day, we’re all further away from the places the we started from.” This line, from “The Places”, embodies the travelling and often wayward spirit found in this band’s, and many other’s, folk music. It’s a prime example of music, lyrics, and image coming together to form something bigger than the sum of it’s parts. Another stunning track on the album, where it gets it’s name, is “Silver and the Age of Opulence”. It’s a deep song, often metaphysical, never meaningless, completely stunning. Perhaps the best verse I’ve heard the last couple years, right before an old audio recording about space travel, is this one:
Along the way, the story’s in the tellin’,
The hero and the villian,
Can often look the same.
Along the way, the devil’s in the details,
Fiction, fact or folktale?
The simple truth remains,
We’ll never be the same again.
The album ends on a somber note with “Take Me Home, Alice”, a lonely song about our place in the world and how one person can change that. “Take me home, Alice and sing me to sleep,/ I’m only as good as the company I keep.” This album, Fiction, Fact, or Folktale?, belongs in the catalog of anyone that loves traditional folk music. It’s a deep album, the kind that evolves after multiple listens and make you want to listen and share again and again. AND it has the best album cover of 2013.