On this last Music Thursday of 2014, I am going to review the latest album by Brock’s Folly, The Great Commoner. If you like Kris Orlowski, Mumford and Sons, and The Head and the Heart, you’ll probably like this album.
I was asked by one of the band members of Brock’s Folly to write this review. I really glad he asked, because I otherwise would not have heard this great album. The Great Commoner proves that Americana vocals don’t have to be husky or twangy, accordions don’t have to be annoying, the Apostle’s Creed doesn’t need to be hard to sing, and Christians can make music with obviously Christian lyrics and not lose their potency and relevance.
Calling Georgia their home, Brock’s Folly is an Americana collective that formed while the founding members, Justus Stout, Luke Lillard, and Jesse Murray, attended Bryan College in Tennessee. The band draws more sounds from the latter state, creating a sound that brings to mind images of a family jam session on a dusty porch.
Stand-out track and album opener “William Jennings” begins with a plucked banjo, which sends some other-side-of-the-pond vibes. But the European feel soon gives way as the gang vocals enter, and the song builds to a powerful spoken word. As far as openers go, this is probably one of the best I’ve seen in a while. It was gutsy to put such an artsy expression at the forefront of the album, but I really think it works to draw in the listener. I was particularly impressed, since I’ve only seen a spoken word put in the middle of a song one other time (“Teeth” by Cage the Elephant).
“William Jennings” naturally flows into another stand-out, “Boston.” In this song – and throughout the whole release – the band harmonizes wonderfully. In fact, the harmonies are one of the strongest elements of the album.
Lyrically, The Great Commoner covers themes of family, marriage, and death, measured with God’s intense love for us. The vocals are purer than most other Americana vocals, but the songs never lose their grit and power.
Another strong point of the album is the musical expansiveness. The instrumentals vary widely, yet remain balanced the whole way. Trumpet, accordion, harmonica, piano, and lap steel all weave together seamlessly. The album has shaky momentum from “Utah” through “Shaming Cupid,” and the vocals seem sometimes to go flat. However, the songs are always good. Other notable tracks are “Primary Issues” (the Apostle’s Creed song I mentioned earlier), “Dear Penelope,” “Lesson in Dying from Heather,” and “Who Will Speak.”
Overall, The Great Commoner is an enjoyable, though sometimes slow, album experience. The good heavily outweighs the minor “bad.” Even at its “worst,” the album has hearty musicianship, powerful vocals, and thought provoking lyrics. It is definitely worth a listen, and I will certainly keep my eyes out for more music from Brock’s Folly.
Check out Brock’s Folly at the following links.