Yellow Feather. And Gold

yellow-feather-and-goldThe first thing folk might notice about this band (and this album) is the name, Casey Kristofferson, nestled in the band line up. Yes, she’s the daughter of Kris and Rita and she’s one third of this unassuming trio from North Carolina. She sings and writes several of the songs along with Hunter Begley who also sings and plays guitar while lap steel player Charlie Willis completes the band. It’s Begley who is at the helm, his voice the lead on many of the songs and he takes the trio down some dusty roads, his tired and weary take on life’s hiccups somewhat splendid while the overall sound is laid back with a winning lack of polish. Willis’ lap steel gives the album a sweet curl, sounding almost like Leon McAuliffe (of The Texas Playboys) while a slew of guest players (especially fiddler Lindsay Pruett and pianist Matthew Rowland) allow them to gently rock out on a couple of the songs with the rhythm section of Herschel VanDyke and Robert Parks unobtrusively pushing the songs along.

If You Ain’t Cheatin’ opens the album on a high note although it’s a very low key song opening with the lines, “It was a shitty little shack but it was where they did their stuff,” as Begley sings about an engaged girl caught romping with another man. With lyrics which could have come from Mary Gauthier and a fine old fiddle driven country stumble pace it gives notice that the following 40 minutes might be extremely gratifying. There’s more downbeat wallowing in Sarah Accidentally, a mesmerising mix of hypnotic guitar (courtesy of Brian Wright) and some deadpan rhythm as Begley leads the band down a Richmond Fontaine byway while Pirate’s Love Song is a dreamlike evocation of what is possibly a fantasy love life. Blood And Bones ups the tempo as a true blooded country song but its finely nuanced sloppy jauntiness carries a tale of loss and emptiness.

There’s a fine mix throughout the album with Swallow You Down and Key Of C both resembling the slack rock’n’roll of The Felice Brothers while Couch Farm romps along finely with an Appalachian air as Begley sings about the daily drudge of working in a furniture chain store. Lucille, a fine and mildly rollicking bar room ballad recalls the laid back excellence of The Deslondes.  Kristofferson, who in the main sings harmony, steps up to the mic for Fences, a song written by another country scion, Amy Nelson (who is in a band, Folk Uke, with Cathie Guthrie, yip, Arlo’s kid) and it’s given a mild Western swing treatment while her song, Dirty Feet, featuring Aaron Lee Tasjan on guitar, is a bit of an anomaly here as it glides more into a singer/songwriter introspective direction. The closing Lost All Direction meanwhile finds the band dipping into a swampy jangled puddle; guitars and a banjo (there’s none listed in the credits but it sure sounds like one) along with a wheezy harmonica congeal perfectly into a fitting farewell to an extremely fine album.

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