Date: Saturday 22nd October 2016
Southern Tenant Folk Union
Southern Tenant Folk Union are the Edinburgh based string band that over a series of albums have produced a thought provoking and arresting take on roots & folk music.
Past winners of the ‘Americana Artist Of The Year’ award the band have taken their music onto BBC One TV’s prime political show ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ plus Irish TV’s world famous chat show ‘The Late Late Show’ as well as onto stages at prestigious festivals ( Celtic Connections, Belfast Open House Festival, Orkney Folk Festival, Belladrum Festival, Electric Picnic & many more).
They run their own record label and work independently releasing their own music. Live reviews of their concert performances have picked up on their ‘tight delivery & soaring, gorgeous harmonies’ saying that ‘STFU are a must see live band combining a rich blend of musical talent with a high octane Appalachian style’ and they perform their own brand of ‘thrilling traditional musicianship’'
Through extensive touring they have seen audiences grow year on year and now consistently sell-out concert venues all over the UK and Ireland. Artistically successful their albums have been reviewed and praised in The Guardian, The Independent, The Sunday Times and The Irish Times with their latest album, their sixth, awarded 4 stars across the board and described by as ‘thrilling folk-rock at its best’ and ‘as entertaining as it is thought provoking’.
The band toured extensively upon its release all across the UK & Ireland and now tour with their brand new album (their seventh) this Autumn 2016. As political as the recent ‘Chuck Norris Project’ (Q magazine described the band as ‘a folk band for the Occupy era – passionate, political and mischievous’), but with a return to the style, chord forms and song shapes of their debut album. The emphasis on bluegrass, gospel and country made once more to fit in with Seeger/Ochs style protest folk songs.
Expect to hear this exciting new material performed by the collective alongside the best of their extensive back catalogue as they continue to tour in the manner of Willie Nelson. That is with a thrilling live show that engages the audience, talks & tells stories, discusses issues, is informal and also one that displays the fully eclectic and interesting music from across the band’s career to date.
And like Willie they play the hits.
“Music of delightful invention, slipping in and out of genres with a surprising deftness…this is ambitious music in Punch Brothers vein with only flickers of STFU’s bluegrass origins.” Joe Breen, 4 Stars, The Irish Times
“Southern Tenant Folk Union are a folk band for the Occupy era – passionate, political and mischievous. Album six fixates on the American right and its death cult, the Chuck of the title being a Christian Republican as well as the veteran screen action hero. Never failing to pile on the irony this is STFU’s least action-packed, most thoughtful – even sorrowful – offering so far. The septet’s banjo/fiddle/mandolin/guitar/string-bass prowess now stretches far from their folk/country roots beyond even the artful twang of John Peel faves The Mekons towards Robert Wyatt’s mournfulness.” Mat Snow, 4 Stars, Q Magazine
“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
“Now pushing their art a fair bit further, they’re filtering a succession of minor chords through arrangements that, in terms of ambition, look to a hybrid of Kronos Quartet and Punch Brothers.” Alan Morrison, Sunday Herald
“It’s epic like the best of Pink Floyd or Arcade Fire. After years of critics complaining that music has stopped being political, this is an album that takes umbrage with much in society. A fantastic idea brilliantly executed and what a way for Scottish music to start 2015. The bar has been set. Very, very high.” Rick Fulton, The Daily Record
“A Fascinating union of Celtic and American influences” Simon Cosyns, The Sun
“More than simple roots-music revivalism” Stewart Lee, The Sunday Times
“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” Colin Irwin, MOJO
Photo Credit : Douglas Robertson
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Other tracks on the album include a look at eight chosen ‘forces’ such as fundamentalism, apathy and political lobbying that continue to slow social progress (The Octagon), a future homosexual or female occupant of the White House in which business carries on much the same as before (The President’s Man) and more on right wing talk radio and the influence it has on gun nuts (Martial Law).
Appropriately for a band named after a ground breaking multi-racial union (the Southern Tenant Farmers Union) they present a song scenario of workers deciding that instead of their factory and jobs being moved abroad it would make more sense for the company to outsource the CEO and Chairman’s jobs overseas (Expendable Too).
There’s a look at other inter connected stories like politicians and their need to hide real ideas for fear of losing votes (Silent Rage) and the relationship politics has with business and how this has disappointed with corruption on both left and right (The Wrecking Crew Parts 1 & 2)
Finally rounding out the album the band use chromatic fiddle and clarinet over a nod to STFU’s bluegrass abilities to highlight how protectionism for rich countries and open markets for poor countries impoverishes the wider world (Invasion USA) before the album finishes gently with a song about drone planes or remotely piloted aircraft and the office staff who fly them (A Force Of One).
Once again recording and mixing, on his fourth consecutive album with the band, was Lau sound engineer Tim Matthew (also known for his work as singer and fiddle player in Mystery Juice & drummer in Lord Rochester). Tim’s expertise in sound techniques has produced this most fully realised album where each song’s tone reflects the subject matter, with space created and when grooves need to be hard then the full force of the big acoustic band sound is deployed without mercy to your ear drums.
The innovative art design comes again from Jonathan McClean (whose cover design for album 5 ‘Hello Cold Goodbye Sun’ was very well received two years ago) and this time he’s come up with a bold, eye catching and memorable concept reminiscent of 70’s and 80’s action movie posters.
So, in summary, 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. Whilst never forgetting that the songs, melodies and performances need to engage even more when atypical and sometimes challenging political lyrics are used.
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.
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