1: materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture; broadly : things typical ofAmerica
2: American culture
3: a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music
Plainly describing “Americana,” we get a sense of history; beginnings; or even a bad Offspring album; rarely would we consider it to be something that would make much of a modern surge.
To think of beginnings, it feels almost appropriate that modern Americana is emerging from Boston. That is, after all, where most of our beginnings came from.
The Autumn Hollow Band is a quartet from Massachusetts that has leaned on their musical forefathers to create Love Letters & Ransom Notes. The resulting eleven track album is enough to make you stop and reconsider your description of “Americana.” The album has all the necessary ingredients to be tossed into the folk or even country categories. You’ll get all the banjo, steel guitar, and slide you could possibly want. But it is far from that simple.
Songwriter and lead vocalist Brendan Murphy utilizes a thought provoking often off-key, matter-of-fact swagger in his delivery. Singing lines such as “I’ve been thinking/ thinking/ is no good for me” and “Too many people living Anarchy/ Thousands of choices only one they see/ like with the dust bowl and the Cherokee/ I walk with you” with a simplistic, yet intellectual approach he creates a depth to the album that lends itself to what makes Love Letters & Ransom Notes truly unique. He creatively blends his insightful writing to songs like “First It Rains” which will have you humming long after the song is over and “I’ll Be Your Fool” that will have you thinking after it’s entrenched in your emotions. Accompanying the vocals lead guitarist Mike Burke hooks you with catchy licks and swaying solos. It has been a long time since such a solid accompaniment on slide has propelled a song along. Bassist Scott Marucci cleverly mixes the electric and more traditional upright throughout to add substance to the tightly orchestrated music. Driving it all home, Todd Sampson carries the heavy weight of the most contemplative to the light hearted songs with his intuitive drumming.
There is a level that Love Letters & Ransom Notes reaches where, if you’re really listening, you’re moved and treated to a sound of great originality. Sure, there are instant hooks you’ll find on this album from the first run; from the title track in all of its melodic swagger to the quirky “Washing Machine,” but the true craft lies within each song. It is eleven songs of Americana that redefines the subject.