The Foreign Landers is a pretty good name for the married roots duo of David Benedict and Tabitha Agnew. He is from South Carolina; she from Northern Ireland. So, music from foreign lands is to be expected on their new EP Put All Your Troubles Away.
The 21st century being what it is, of course, their musical journey is a bit back-to-front. Benedict, whose main gig is with bluegrass outfit Mile Twelve, got his start playing Celtic music in the American South, while Agnew, most recently with UK bands Cup O’Joe and Midnight Skyracer, picked up a decidedly American five-string banjo in the Emerald Isle’s North after hearing an Alison Krauss & Union Station track.
Put All Your Troubles Away does offer an interesting transatlantic melding, although perhaps not as dynamically different as might be expected (or hoped for). This may be because the two genres — Celtic folk and bluegrass/country — are a bit incestuous at their core. But it’s just as likely to be because Benedict and Agnew, who fit seamlessly together, haven’t really cracked a new style, just dipped a toe into one.
“Finn’s Rescue” is a case in point. It is a pleasant banjo and mandolin instrumental that comes across as simply folk. “The Leaves So Green” is more of a mix, with British/Irish folk rhythms and a bit of an Appalachian chorus. But it is understated.
“Song for Riddle” is the other way around — an American sound with only bare elements of Agnew’s home country cutting through.
The album is accomplished, with solid instrumental work, and Agnew has a lovely voice, though she tends to stick to one range. But it doesn’t quite take you into the “uncharted musical territories” promised by the publicity.
If an EP is designed to introduce a new act and to test the waters for the future, Put All Your Troubles Away does its job. It hints at some great things to come, but it is as yet an intriguing trailer.