In the 1960’s, country star Hank Snow sang “I’ve been everywhere, man.” Although Bradford Lee Folk didn’t include that song on his recent album Somewhere Far Away, his background gives him a legitimate claim to it. Folk was born in Louisiana, raised in Missouri, moved to Colorado after graduating high school, fronted early 2000s Rounder-signed band Open Road, ran a honky-tonk after the band called it quits, moved back east to work an organic farm outside of Nashville, and is now recording and touring with his new group, the Bluegrass Playboys (someone please send me one of their stickers).
Those diverse experiences are reflected in the eight, mostly original tracks of Somewhere Far Away. Folk meanders his way from straightforward bluegrass through folk and Americana, singing about rambling, wandering, and trains along the way. He takes care of the lead vocals as well, showing off a vocal style that places him somewhere between Del McCoury and Old Crow Medicine Show.
The opening track might fool a few fans into thinking Folk has delivered a hard-hitting, driving traditional bluegrass album. Foolish Game of Love certainly finds him emulating McCoury, kicking off with a fiery fiddle intro before Folk begins singing about “the foolish little dumb game they call love.” However, from there, things slow down and become more reflective. Trains Don’t Lie is a well-written number which finds Folk stuck in East Nashville, coming to terms with the realities of life, and longing for the open skies of his Colorado home. It’s certainly one of the standout tracks here, with a gentle, contemplative feel.
The title track floats along to a dreamlike melody, but below the peaceful banjo and fiddle are lyrics that promote the value of simple living and home, reminding listeners that sometimes the best rambling is done in the mind. Soil and Clay has a stripped down Americana sound, closing out the album on a dark note with brooding, introspective lyrics that seem to address those who wander aimlessly. Several of the other tracks also have that same type of pensive storytelling, where the lyrics certainly evoke emotions but the exact meaning is hard to pin down. The Wood Swan, a pleasant-sounding folk-pop number that touches on broken relationships, is an example.
The press release accompanying Folk’s album states that “unlike many, he doesn’t see bluegrass as a isolated tradition separate from other American musical forms.” However, like many who have come before him, he has chosen to meld traditional bluegrass instrumentation with pieces of other styles. With Somewhere Far Away, Folk has jumped right into the folkgrass trend, proving himself particularly adept.
For more information on Folk, visit his website at www.bradfordleefolk.com. His new album is available from several online music retailers.
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Category: Music Reviews
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