Listening to Red Tail Ring's fourth studio-length album, "Fall Away Blues" is like taking a time machine to the original vinyl-and-radio-show era - all that's missing are the record player's pop and sizzle. But now, in a time when vinyl is making a resurgence and Prairie Home Companion is available as a downloadable podcast, the Michigan duo's album fits right in with its clean and simple sound.
Self-proclaimed "old-time-minded" Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo split vocals and the spotlight. Unlike other folk-revival groups that have landed on the Top 40 - chiefly Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers - Red Tail Ring stays away from thumping bass drums and handclaps to present a minimalist album focused on strings and harmonies.
"Fall Away Blues" starts with its titular track that characterizes the rest of the album: quiet guitar, fiddle and banjo arrangements with top-notch, two-part harmonies that invite listeners to relax to the sounds of yesterday.
Another standout track, "Love of the City" crosses rural music with urban disenchantment. Its simplistic instruments make way for poignant poetry, with lines like "Living out of suitcases, hotels and bars, scratching at a living, following the stars" and "From forced love to false love to convenient pairings, on sidewalks caked with moon dust and smoke-filled cat-callings."
Such minimalism puts "Fall Away Blues" at risk of becoming monotonous, but the methodically placed instrumental "Camp Meeting on the 4th of July, May Day" and blues-heavy "I'd Rather Be the Devil," help to break it up. Nothing's a toe-tapper, but that would defeat Beauchamp and Premo's purpose on this release.
Listeners looking for a jolt of energy won't find it on "Fall Away Blues," but they shouldn't scoff at either. The duo deliver in a way that's delightfully vintage and anything but tired.