By Water Tower Bucket Boys
It is becoming increasingly evident that Portland, Oregon is the place to be for all things American Folk related with a rich community from the likes of The Decemberists and Laura Veirs to more up and coming artists like Musee Mechanique. The Water Tower Bucket Boys are residents of this exciting city of music that seems to represent everything musically good about the US. Seeing an artist is from Portland OR set a precedent and an expectation of quality like a good trademark.
The Water Tower Bucket Boys set a strong statement about their music, that they have spent time working within the music they write and are learned in the ways of roots music. They question the authenticity of bands who play country instruments like banjos and ukuleles calling themselves folk and want all musicians to understand the genre they work in.
'Sole Kitchen' is a record that manages to show musicians who really know what they are doing and can play their instruments with a second nature. But one thing troubles me about this album, for musicians of this caliber it feels too safe. The album does nothing to update or make an original statement on a form of music over a century old, the sound of it is all too familiar to a fan of the genre and I can only find one track which grabs my attention to something unique and fresh and that is album closer 'Heaven' which seems to, for me at least, point out the inextricable link between American Folk and Blues, a relationship even closer than jazz and blues. On this track the mandolin underpins the rhythm banjo creating a lighter space for the lyrics to push through and these lyrics are charming about meeting your friend in Heaven which fits in with American folk's focus on themes such as camaraderie.
Comparisons can easily be drawn to Old Crow Medicine Show as many other journalists have commented on and the lead vocalist is very reminiscent of Dan Tyminski of Union Station fame.
I cannot dispute the knowledge and tradition of the band but I would have liked to hear a record which had created an original element on all the rudimentary things they have learnt as musicians. It is all about what a musician can do to build on what he has learnt and I fear this record compromises the experience that shines through.