Back in 2012 Blabber’n’Smoke described The Foghorn Stringband’s album, Outshine The Sun as one of the best string band albums of the year. So the arrival of their latest, Devil In The Seat was greatly anticipated and sure enough it’s certainly the best string band album we’ve heard this year. The Portland, Oregon quartet (Caleb Klauder, mandolin, violin, vocals; Stephen ‘Sammy’ Lind, violin, banjo, guitar, vocals; Nadine Landry, guitar, double bass, vocals and Reeb Willms, guitar, vocals) may have swapped their recording location from Oregon to Hawaii on this occasion (why, who knows but I’m sure they had a fine warm time sipping their Margaritas) but once again they sound as if they’re playing on a front porch in some bygone frontier settlement.
All four excel on their various instruments and their sheer exuberance is a delight to listen to. On top of that each is an accomplished singer with their voices seeming to reach from the past. With lead vocals switched from song to song there’s a sense of variety when listening to the album with Williams and Landry duetting wonderfully on the unaccompanied What Will We Do, a rare excursion into traditional folk which they learned from Irish singer Cathy Jordan. Williams yodels away on the roadhouse honky tonk of Mining Camp Blues while Landry adds a fine Acadian lilt to Henry Lee. As for the guys, Klauder and Lind can holler and whoop with the best of them. There’s variety also in the song selection as they range from lilting Appalachian ballads to square dance roustabouts and country waltzes. Each and every one is a delight and as with the previous album they note where they first heard each cut which can lead to some fine Googling fun checking out the originals.
From start to finish Devil In The Seat is an album that defies the listener to remain seated as the band whirl and skirl. There’s top marks for including a great version of Chicken Reel, a tune we probably first heard in a cartoon way way back in the mists of time and one that never fails to raise a grin and look for a partner to dozie doh with.
Good news is that The Foghorn Stringband are touring the UK and Ireland in May and there are two Scottish dates. They appear at Glasgow’s CCA on Sunday 17th may and at The Traverse Theatre Bar in Edinburgh on the 18th. The other tour dates are on their website. If they’re as good live as on record then these should be nights to remember. Here’s a clip of them playing.