Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Midtown Dickens - Home (2012)

There's something to be said for catching one of your favorite bands as many times as you are physically able during a single tour cycle. When Bowerbirds awoke from their two year hibernation with The Clearing and a cornucopia of dates that included not one but two New York City dates, I knew exactly what I was doing. In fact, with memories of my first ever Bowerbirds show clearly in my head I was absolutely pumped for the experience to see them twice. Why? Well, sure Bowerbirds are absolutely amazing live but there's also the fact that they have absolutely stellar taste in tourmates. And that's how I found North Carolina foursome Midtown Dickens.

What drew me to Midtown Dickens wasn't just the impressive caliber of their performance but also the fact that they appeared to be having so much damn fun doing what they do. It was infectious as I was beaming ear-to-ear from set-start to set-end. With so many groups nowadays seeking to reinvigorate folk with all sorts of dramatic innovative procedures (slapping on some electronic embellishments or fusing in elements of other genres), Midtown Dickens was a breath of fresh air. Pure and simple old-timey folk whose new life comes from the passion and talent of the ones making it. Sign me up. In moments on their latest album Home, I was gently reminded of fellow folk-inspired North Carolina bands Megafaun albeit without their penchant for electro-acoustic pairings and Mandolin Orange with far less fiddle and far more shuffle.

While Midtown Dickens makes use of those utterly glorious harmonies that draw people to folk music, there's more to them to that. There's a rather prevalent upright bass which is surprisingly charming to hear. It's presence is steady and persistent and adds just the right dark coloring even to Midtown Dickens brightest tracks. At their most upbeat, Midtown Dickens recalls a legitimate hoe-down - one that you don't have to feel ashamed about attending but can just enjoy. It's not hokey, it's just toe-tapping music bustling with excited energy. That same infectious energy that exudes from the foursome on stage. And when Midtown Dickens turn contemplative, you listen. Amid the cluster of twangy guitars and banjos, rapturous harmonies, and harmonica flourishes, Midtown Dickens are telling stories deserving of eager ears. While some are just downright fun ("This Is My Home", "Crocodile Mile") and others not-so-much ("Apple Tree", "Cross My Heart"), all of them are certainly worthwhile. Home is a solid collection of songs that play smoothly from beginning to end, aided no doubt by the endearing handing off of lead vocals by Cat Edgerton and Kym Register.

You can listen to Midtown Dickens' Home in full via their Bandcamp here.

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