You’d be forgiven for thinking Frontier Ruckus were a budding new band; I’ll be honest, I’d never really heard of them.
Whilst they may not be a household name in our neck of the woods, Frontier Ruckus have been busy since the release of their debut album ‘The Orion Songbook’ in 2006. The band have racked up an impressive back catalogue (some 3 EP’s and 4 studio albums), been featured on TV adverts and have received critical acclaim from the industry and their peers alike – it’s a high accolade indeed to have Ryan Adams as fan!
The Michigan based four piece have slipped under the radar in the UK, though they were well received at Dorset’s folk/ alt festival End of the Road in 2013. With the resurgence of folk and singer songwriters in the mainstream (and the eyes of the world fixed on America right now) the climate could be right for Frontier Ruckus to make an impact upon our shores with their fifth album ‘Enter the Kingdom’.
Opening track ‘Visit Me’ proves to be a great introduction the band and frontman Mathew Milia’s dense lyrics and sweet vocal delivery. There’s almost an echo of Neil Young in there and some great harmony work. The almost pop overtone of the track is given a bluegrass flavour courtesy of some fine banjo playing.
Milia has a tendency to rhyme every line which gives a certain flow to tracks like ‘Gerunds’ (now there’s something for you to Google!) though they can feel a little wordy at times – laconic this is not!
The three singles from the album showcase the band diverse palette from intimate feel of ‘Our Flowers Are Still Burning’ to the singing saw on the chorus ‘27 Dollars.’ The appropriately upbeat ‘Positively Freaking’ has a country – esque flavour; maybe a tip of the hat to Nashville where the album was recorded with Ken Coomer of Wilko fame.
On the subject of production, much like the aforementioned Neil Young’s Harvest album, ‘Enter The Kingdom’ has a very organic sound. Yes, there are some complex layers on songs whilsts others like ‘If You Can’ and ‘Nothing Is Working’ have a much more singer songwriter vibe to them, but as a body of work it is cohesive and inviting.
‘Sarah Springtime’ is a great example of this inviting feel – a subdued affair that would make a perfect accompaniment to a lazy sunny afternoon.
For me the title track ‘Enter The Kingdom’ is the standout track on the record. It is lyrically clever, beautifully arranged and both Milia and backing vocalist Anna Burch deliver stellar performances. By the time the string arrangement and the thunderstorm (apparently spontaneous and captured by chance) kick in, the song has taken on a much more grandiose feel and caps off the album brilliantly.
It’s easy to see how Frontier Ruckus have earned the praise they have already received and if this album is anything to go by they look set for greater heights.
It’s difficult to say whether this slice of Americana will translate as well in merry old England but for those interested, the band are touring in March (sadly York may be as close as they get to the North East).
If you’ve got an itch to scratch for some fresh American folk that isn’t afraid to wander from the tried and tested, Enter The Kingdom may well oblige.