For Fear The Hearts of Men Are Failing. The Wonderful Clatter

Blabber’n’Smoke enjoys string band music. Fingers flying over stringed instruments, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, guitars. Fiddles and saws bowed. Played with virtuosity or wonderfully shambolic, old time or bang up to date, we dig it. So we were very happy to hear that the very fine San Francisco troupe, For Fear The Hearts Of Men Are Failing were having a Kickstarter campaign to fund their second album having loved the previous release City Music. We were even more happy and intrigued that the band were looking for the princely sum of $1000 in order to unleash this beast. Having achieved their target the result is The Wonderful Clatter, an almost onomatopoeic title for this cracking collection of songs and tunes that teeter on the edge of craziness and totter like a drunk rambling home.
The forebears of FFTHOM are bands like The Holy Modal Rounders and The Incredible String Band. They’re immersed in the sounds and songs of vintage rural Americana and come up with what is a fairly unique style that will scare off casual listeners with its harum scarum scapperings. For anyone however who can trace the lineage of rough hewn American folk music from the early days, captured by Harry Smith on his definitive anthology, they are gold dust.
The album opens with the speed freak banjo and pell mell vocals of Ghosts and Dreams, a wonderful clatter indeed. A great segue into the childlike naiveté of Up Jumped The Devil is inspired and its clear here that despite their apparent randomness they do take time to arrange their songs as the glockenspiel and melodica backdrop support the fine yet ragged harmonies on a song that could have been on one of The Incredible String Band’s early albums.
While The Meadow and One Thing I Know are relatively straightforward country romps (although with FFTHOM nothing is really straightforward) the true delights are on the definitely quirkier songs. No Point To Life (with guest accordionist Skyler Fell) is an existential trip that sounds as if it’s being sung by a bunch of Russian Nihilists (and is reminiscent then of the late great Tuli Kupferberg). Devon Doesn’t Like The Beatles playfully describes a troubled teen who grudgingly acknowledges that The Beatles exist because “they’re Lemmy’s favourite band,” a delightful ditty. Aside from the whimsy they can pull out of their collective hat the gorgeous Bad Dreams (written and sung by Meg Ruth King) that has a haunting quality and sounds like a lost outtake from Karen Dalton.
The Wonderful Clatter is a fine successor to City Music then and one which deserves to be heard far and wide by those who love traditional music and those who like to walk on the wild side.


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