Black Music Matters Festival

Folk Soul Revival

Folk Soul Revival – 2018 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Folk Soul Revival

Folk Soul Revival has built a reputation for wild energetic live shows. This recording proves they can do well in the studio environment too. The band now makes their home in Bristol, Tenn., the birthplace of country. Make no mistake, FSR has already arrived, but they've had to deal with shifting personnel. Now, regrouped with two new members, they're just honing their craft of amped up Americana.

Frontman and chief songwriter Daniel Davis seems so natural as the lead vocalist. His voice blends twang, honesty, and raw emotion. The quintet includes Justin Venable (baritone guitar, vocals, Brandon Sturgill (upright bass, bass guitar) with newcomers Chad Light (guitar, pedal steel, banjo) and Justin Louthian (drums, vocals). FSR runs the gamut from roadhouse country rock, weeping ballads, bluegrass influences and, for lack of better term, hillbilly rock.

Produced by Grammy Award winner Chad Brown (Ryan Adams, Hayes Carll, Patty Griffin) with additional production by Barry Bales (a longtime member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, as well as the producer of Folk Soul Revival's previous album, "Out of the Box"), these songs shine the light on a band of rowdy, deft pickers with tight interplay.

Glean these song titles and you'll quickly get the idea - "Small Town," "Workin' Man," "Losing Kind" and "Broken." These songs about blue-collar jobs, long workweeks, wise-ass bartenders, messy breakups and richly-deserved weekends, may be biographical, but they are universally relatable to rural folks. On "Small Town," Davis sings about front porches, back roads and Friday night football games, painting an indelibly Southern canvas across a soundtrack of banjo, slide guitar and vocal harmonies.

Other highlights included the duet with folksinger Leah Blevins on "Dance with Me," the syllable accents in "Horrible Girl" that make for a double entendre, the blistering kickoff kickass track "Other Side," the cover of Little Feat's "Willin'," (a natural for Davis) and the layered production of strings and The McCrary Sisters on backgrounds for "Broken."

Folk Soul Revival may look to the past for their material, but they bring a sound that's as arresting and fresh as any current Americana band.