What I look for on an almost daily basis is that folk artist/band that really knows how capture me. Usually it’s a band that isn’t necessarily doing anything particularly well or different, but doing exactly what they are best at. The Lumineers, John Fullbright, Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes. These bands are all popular and successful because they are making the kind of music that they are perfect suited for. The next band for me to add to this list is Jamestown Revival.
Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance make up this dynamic folk band, using two part instrumentation and harmonies in each song to produce something special. The quality of the vocals are what really makes this group stand apart from what else there is in the folk category. It would be easy to compare them to The Milk Carton Kids, but that would be unfair to both groups. This is much faster, much more upbeat, vocal focused music. That’s not a bad thing, it’s as if they set out to create a compliment to the slow, lyric driven, ecstatically acoustic Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattingale.
The album start off with “Fur Coat Blues”, a song that epitomizes what this band is about. It’s a quick, sub 3 minute song that is a traditional folksy blues song. Lines like “I told my father I would carry on his name” and “I’ve been here a time or two” show that this song is a perfect addition to the genre. “California (Cast Iron Soul)” is another bluesy folk song, but this one is a little different. While the first track was fast and upbeat from the beginning, this one builds a little first before adding the fiddle and the impressive harmony work. These guys know exactly when and how to turn up the intensity and nowhere is that shown better than this track.
“Wandering Man” and “Revival” are next up and it’s hard to think that you won’t have already bought the album by the time you get here. “Wandering Man” begins with some beautiful slide guitar and it’s tone is unique enough that it’ll catch your ear. “This wandering man’s got a hell of a plan but he’s running out of time.” The most electric and philosophical song on the album is “Revival”. This song will sound familiar enough that you my think it’s a cover, but that’s a tribute to the skill these guys have. The album’s best lines are present here. “I can’t do what I been told,/ Livin’ young while growin’ old./ And I’m just hanging on for my survival.”
“Heavy Heart”, “Time is Gone”, and “Golden Age” provide the mellow parts of Utah, with the latter showing the songwriting chops and providing the most meat of these. Much like Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changing”, this song is nostalgic and prophetic. It’s about the things that we’ll miss and looking forward to times unknowable. “Yesterday’s dead and gone.”
Utah is perhaps my first standout, shout from the rooftops album of 2014. This is the kind of band and album that makes you excited to find new music again, the kind of album that makes you like a de facto groupie, the kind of album that you feel like you should be paid for since you publicize it so much to your friends. With lush harmonies and flawless instrumentation, Jamestown Revival is a must have for anyone that would be reading on our site.