There's no mystery why old-time music meshes so well with a rock 'n' roll attitude; the two are cut from similar disaffected cloth, raw in their original form and rife with emotional undercurrents. That many of the acts pursuing this avenue are barely post-collegiate acts following in the footsteps of the Avett Brothers or Mumford & Sons hardly matters when the results are as infectious as they are on Parsonsfield's new EP.
With a full drum kit, the band would never be considered a 'real' old-time or bluegrass act, but they incorporate much more from those sources than many of their more shallow overalls-and-banjo peers. "Anita, Your Lovin'," for example, takes a vaudevillian ragtime banjo tack with joyous results that belie the sad longing of the lyrics, like Bombadil or Hurray for the Riff Raff without the guitar amps.
It's that intimate, primitive style that gives these performances their power; close your eyes and you're on back porch, or in a backyard, playing music with friends. There's little artifice in a song such as the more sedate "The Power Of Love," which references "People Get Ready" as it declaims the virtues of a simple life. On the other side of things, the Steel Wheels-level energy of "Hang Me" infuses Celtic music, sea chanteys and even a horn section into a raucous burst of folk 'n' roll.
On this short set of songs, Parsonsfield are that most enjoyable kind of roots music band - the kind that turns tradition into something new without denying or distorting the source.