Album Review: The Farewell Drifters – Echo Boom
The Farewell Drifters wear their 60s influences on the sleeves of their Members Only jackets. The title of their newest album, Echo Boom, is a reference to the extended resonance of the Baby Boom generation’s hopes, failures, idealism, and projections as processed and perceived by their offspring. Many boomer-era musical legends also echo throughout the new album which initially made me wary, to be honest. Through press releases and reviews, I’d read about an album of progressive folk music decidedly influenced by 60s pop supergroups Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others. This sounded to me like exactly what I didn’t want to hear in contemporary roots music. I feared a modern day version of the Country Gentlemen or even something like the Kingston Trio with more compositional savvy. I can appreciate some Simon and Garfunkel. And I can appreciate the production and harmonic genius of Brian Wilson. However, extended listens to each don’t make me want to write forlorn poetry or drive to the shore for sun and fun; they make me want to eat a mouthful of gritty dirt to rid the cloying taste of saccharine from my mouth. I was pleasantly surprised that my reaction to Echo Boom was quite the opposite. Somehow this group of young, earnest musicians manage to take the best elements from those influences and transform all that saccharine into an earthy, organic honey that is not just palatable, but downright savory. Echo Boom accomplishes a form of alchemical magic that deserves a wide audience.
I caught the final set of one of their concerts last week at Nashville’s legendary Station Inn. As much as I’ve enjoyed Echo Boom since giving it a fair shake, I was even more impressed seeing these guys play live. Not only do they exude an irresistible charm of good-natured humility, but they can play. Really play. Despite the harmonic density and musicianship the album documents, it’s clear that Echo Boom exercises some serious restraint, preferring to spotlight the subtlety of songcraft above the virtuosic ability that lies just barely beneath the surface.
In addition to their precociously mature musicianship, this is a band of thoughtful, introspective lyricists, unapologetically exploring the preoccupations of youth in a cerebral dreamscape of analog hand-claps, clever doo-wop harmonies, and vibrant string arrangements. For my money, the album’s standout track is “Heart Of A Slave,” whose verses construct layered counterpoint melodies including delicious pizzicato fiddle riffs from Christian Sedelmeyer. Dean Marold’s perfectly sparse bass line, worthy of Reggie Workman on the deepest of Coltrane albums, adds the song’s groove before a deep-swinging southern chorus springs forth propelled by Sedelmeyer’s bowed fiddle and Zack Bevill’s sliding vocals. Another favorite track is “Tip Of The Iceberg” which is an unlikely marriage of an AM Gold summer hit from decades past as courted by a suitor further down the dial on WSM.
Perhaps I’m perceiving the band’s breezy vocal harmonies a little too literally, but Echo Boom evokes a spirit of shared joy among friends excited to explore multiple influences and inspirations with mutual enthusiasm. Or maybe I’m picking up on those intangible familial bonds between lead guitarist Clayton Britt and his mandolin playing brother, Joshua. Whatever the reason, Echo Boom is an album of exuberant musical intelligence slyly filtered through the hazy sunshine of 60s idealism, even as it politely investigates the reliability of that distorted view. It is not, as I feared it might be, baby boom nostalgia dressed up in stringband arrangements; instead the album is a successful transcendence of that ethos by way of earnest, witty musical invention.
Check out the Farewell Drifters’ website for more information including current tour dates.
Dustin Ogdin is a freelance writer and journalist based in Nashville, TN. His work has been featured by MTV News, the Associated Press, and various other stops in the vast environs of the world wide web. His personal blog and home base is Ear•Tyme Music. Click below to read more and network with Dustin.