THE WYNNTOWN MARSHALS – THE LONG HAUL
2013 - Wynntown Recordings
Although I had heard of the Wynntown Marshals before, I had never actually heard them, which surprises me because on listening to this terrific recording the brand of country rock/alt. country that they play is one that I love. I mention both of those generic offshoots simply because this excellent band blurs the edges between the two and blends what is basically a now elderly
style with the fresh newness of alt. country. Where they differ from many is that they don’t try to pretend they are from the U.S, with quite a few references that make it obvious they are from the British Isles (Scotland) but stylistically still have a mastery and a feel for what had it’s birth in America. Of course, a just as relevant argument is that much of what was born in the U.S was conceived originally in Europe so no one really has any provenance as inventors!
This is certainly an album that has the feel of of classic country rock, thanks in part to the brilliant, evocative lead vocals and tremendous group harmonies, even if the lyrics don’t always tie in to the genre, but this is what makes the album both unusual and rewarding. They haven’t tried to stick with American themes and have written songs that they are comfortable with and fitted them into a musical genre they love and have a feel for. Whilst the musical similarities to bands such as the Eagles, America, C,S & N, etc. are few, the lead vocals and harmonies are of that quality, although I prefer the less polished style and the variety that the Wynntown Marshals bring to their music.
This talented band is made up of Keith Benzie on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica, Iain Sloan on six and 12 string guitars, pedal steel, resonator guitar, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Murdoch MacLeod, bass guitar and backing vocals and Kenny McCabe on drums and backing vocals. The lyrics and melodies to eight of the songs were written by Keith Benzie, the other two being written by Murdoch MacLeod whilst all of the music was composed by the band and the album recorded and produced by the band and Andrew Taylor at ‘Wynntown HQ’ Edinburgh.
The beautifully written story song Driveway, opens the album on a note of youthfull enthusiasm with this excellent mid tempo country rocker being full of excitement and a lovely big guitar sound on the tale of youths adventuring in America. It is followed by Canada with it’s nice jangling guitars on a big country rock ballad about being separated from a lover by an ocean. It is a quite complex tale that as usual includes terrific harmonies and playing on a memorable song. The Submariner is a tremendous, and unusual, country rock ballad that tells the
story of someone who fears that a drowned friend will come back to steal his lover. There is a gorgeous steel guitar and nice shuffling drum sound that propels the song at an easy going pace despite the lyrics that are anything but
easy going. Curtain Call is another unusual song, this time driven by a haunting violin and acoustic guitar before
being joined by chiming piano on a sad haunting tale about an old variety artist now addicted to hard drugs, thanks to a trick that went wrong, and reminiscing about what used to be. It is not only a tremendous story lyrically, but is
further lifted by the evocative lead and harmony vocals on this slow hauntingly dramatic tale. Final mention goes to Change Of Heart, the closing song on this terrific album. A feminine edge is added courtesy of the beautiful harmony vocals that come courtesy of Dolly Varden’s Diane Christiansen on a lovely moody country duet ballad that suggests they can’t live together and can’t live apart!
The above mentioned are just a few of the highlights on an album where pretty much every song is a highlight thanks to the tremendous and often unusual writing, the excellent playing and the peerless lead and harmony vocals. If you like country rock/ alt. country just about everything you could wish for is included on this disc that contains a variety of tempos and a roller coaster of themes and emotions. If a better album of what can loosely be termed alt. country is released this year I can’t wait to hear it! Great band and a tremendous album.