SOUTHERN TENANT FOLK UNION
^ Upstairs ^
Award winning UK collective SOUTHERN TENANT FOLK UNION new album ‘THE CHUCK NORRIS PROJECT’ out Feb 16th
Irish tour 3- 8 March visits Dundalk, Portstewart, Lisburn, Manorhamilton, Thurles & Dublin
“the latest album demonstrates a willingness to take folk beyond the usual boundaries…the sonics are as adventurous as the lyrics”8/10 Hot Press
“another strong performance…warm complex melodies and frequently haunting melodies” *** Irish Times
“hailed for years as a great live act…definitely worth catching on their Irish tour” **** Irish Mail on Sunday
“I feel little sympathy, they’ve panic in their eyes, as they stand behind the state police they secretly despise” – The Octagon
This February sees the Irish release of the sixth Southern Tenant Folk Union album ‘The Chuck Norris Project’, the band’s most ambitious album to date. Conceptually the tracks are all named after different movies from the actor’s career (though have nothing to do with the plots and contain no reference to car chases, explosions or karate chops) with each song taking the title as a starting point to discuss political ideas. Band leader Pat McGarvey came upon the idea in autumn 2012 during the last US presidential election when Mr Norris and his wife released a campaign video urging voters to come out for Mitt Romney saying that a vote for Obama would lead to “a thousand years of darkness”, a statement he felt unhelpful to the debate. Musically eclectic the album remains an all-acoustic affair but takes in influences like 70’s disco, folk and soundtrack music mixing elements of composers like John Carpenter, Gene Clark and Fabio Frizzi. The album also features guest vocals from cult Americana songwriter Mike Ferrio (from the bands Tandy & Good Luck Mountain).
With this idea McGarvey and the band began to write and demo material to see if it would work not only as a concept but also as something musically interesting. Subsequently most of the album was written during 2013 but delays to recording meant the sessions didn’t take place until summer 2014. Featuring an expanded sound with orchestrated fiddle, clarinet and cello on top of the band’s regular 5 string banjo, double bass, cajon, mandolin and acoustic guitars the songs each explore different subjects that expand upon the original movie title in unexpected ways. Also influential was the work of 70’s soul composer/arrangers such as Isaac Hayes, J.J. Johnson and Barry White on songs like the epic Martial Law or the relentless folk disco of Walker, both tracks using those big soundtrack stylings to emphasise and reflect the emotion of the lyrical content.
The subjects of the songs are diverse but have subtle and common threads linking them outside of the framing device. A few songs touch on the gun laws in USA and their consequences, one being the continuing horror of school shootings (in Slaughter In San Francisco) written from the point of view of a young girl trapped in time beneath her desk. Equality is another thread linking the songs with zero hour contracts and the need to organise labour the basis for the song Delta Force (referencing Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World caste system) and the forces ranged against it in The Octagon. And even as the songs discuss issues of social conscience it’s always done with beauty, space and clarity. Leading each piece of music are the compelling vocals from Rory Butler, a voice powerful and fragile, soulful and honest. He is accompanied by the thrilling dexterity of Adam Bulley on Mandolin and the innovative fiddle playing of Katherine Stewart who manages to effortlessly combine elements of her backgrounds in Scottish traditional music and classical training into a sometimes beautiful and often disturbing sound.
Chris Purcell whose sublime songwriting contributions have been highlights of the last four STFU albums has composed The Wrecking Crew – Parts 1 & 2 – (Eyes Right and Eyes Left), a song suite noting the parallels of paranoia on both the extreme right and left. On the left Utopian ideals that end in disappointment and on the right the fear of losing power via equality and social progress. Other tracks on the album include a dissonant string based riff on a possibly future homosexual or female occupant of the White House where it’s just business as usual (The President’s Man) and appropriately for a band named for a union they present in Expendable Too a scenario where workers decide to reverse the norm and outsource their Managing Director’s job.
Once again recording and mixing, on his fourth consecutive album with the band, is Lau sound engineer Tim Matthew. Tim’s expertise in sound techniques has produced this most fully realised album where each song’s tone reflects the subject matter. It contains atmosphere and subtlety but when a groove needs to be hard the full force of the big acoustic band sound is deployed. Album artwork comes again from Irish designer Jonathan McClean and this time he’s devised a set of bold, eye catching and memorable images reminiscent of 70’s action movie posters.
The band have once again taken another leap in sound, structure and tone as they marry social conscience and comment on the world around them with songs, melodies and performances that engage. This album has achieved what it set out to and now on release STFU invite all to listen for themselves, although maybe it would be for the best if Chuck Norris never got to hear it.
An essay with more detailed information about the concept and thinking behind the album can be found on the STFU website
This album is also being released in a ten track version on 12” Vinyl (catalogue number JOROCK 020)
The Chuck Norris Electronic Project album, a synth based spin-off album by The Southern Tenant, will be released later in 2015
Southern Tenant Folk Union are:
Adam Bulley – Mandolin
Rory Butler – Acoustic Guitar/Lead Vocals
Steve Fivey – Cajon Drum/Percussion
Chris Purcell – Acoustic Guitar/Vocals
Craig Macfadyen – Double Bass
Pat McGarvey – 5 String Banjo/Vocals
Ciaran Ryan – Fiddle/Vocals
WHAT THE PRESS SAID ABOUT THE BAND’S PREVIOUS ALBUMS ‘HELLO COLD GOODBYE SUN’ & ‘PENCAITLAND’:
“The Scottish folk group Southern Tenant Folk Union presents its most potent offering since 2010’s excellent The New Farming Scene” – Andy Gill, 4 Stars, The Independent
“The Scottish band’s harmonies dance and drone, tackling songs that embrace the traditional ambience of The Unthanks and the experimentation of Tunng” – Andy Fyfe, 4 Stars, Q Magazine
“The band just keep going from strength to strength…with Hello Cold they’ve hit a new stride and when you have a product as fine and accessible as this, it’s just hard to imagine it staying on the shelves for very long” – Rob Lavender, Metro
“Hello Cold Goodbye Sun, like all the recent work from this band, has its particular surface ripples but lasting depth beneath”- Alan Morrison, The Herald
‘The band knock up a fierce, raw and earthy music that is the stuff of Mumford & Sons’ dreams…the results are as compelling as they are oppressively bleak’ – The Guardian
‘Pencaitland is their most serious and ambitious album yet’ – UNCUT
‘A Fascinating union of Celtic and American influences’ – The Sun
‘Atmospheric, with sonorous rumbles of bowed double bass and melancholy harmonica against a stealthy ticking of strings’ – The Scotsman
‘Honest, thoughtful and admirable’ – The Irish Times
‘One of the finest Celtic roots albums you will hear this, or any other, year’ – Americana UK
‘There’s clearly a lot more to come from this act, given their desire to push the boundaries of folk music rather than stubbornly stick to its traditional basics.’ – 8/10, Neon Filler
‘Offering an alluring Scottish folk/old-time string band mix, it’s still stamped with a provocative charm that makes it an effective slow burn…beautiful recording quality, subtle arrangements and involving, melancholic songs are powerfully persuasive’ – MOJO
‘There was more heart in the room last night than you’d find in a whole tour of Mumford & Sons. And art. Nothing too flashy to begin, just lovely interwoven mandolins and fiddles, driven by guitar rhythms and their trademark bluegrass banjo. Southern Tenant Folk Union might have been playing in a boozer, but if people call these guys a jumped-up pub band, they’ve got it all wrong.’ – The Arts Desk.
€12 advance / €14 door
Advanced tickets are available online from WAV Tickets [Lo-Call 1890 200 078] (50c per ticket service charge applies on phone or creditcard bookings)
Over 18’s only, I.D. may be required.
AFTER THE GIG
Whelan’s Indie Club w/ Late Bar from 10:30pm or check out the bands playing The Midnight Hour in the upstairs venue (FREE ENTRY, 12am).