All too often critics lament the state of the music industry as dying, stale, boring, or pick your poison-term to describe a so-called sorry state of music. Now, in our opinion these doom and gloom predictions about the state of music say more about the overt focus on a handful of artists, labels, and entertainers rather than saying anything meaningful about music that is being made by artists. 2017 was a great year for music across genres… Well, that is if one is willing to look beyond a small list of places and names. Case in point is the West Virginian band Farnsworth with their Zachary Gabbard produced Elk City.
Released in the Fall of 2017, this record puts so many better know albums to shame. Full of real, true rock and roll that cuts straight to the heart of the matter, this record stands as one of the most exciting records of 2017. The first song “American Dream” begins with a slash of guitar that leads into a 70s Stonesy swagger that recalls the fond memory of that band in its prime. But don’t jump to conclusions. Equal parts ’60s inspiration, ’70s rock and roll along with contemporary indie mixed with a healthy dollop of psychedelia, Farnsworth has created a record that sounds fresh, energetic and utterly captivating.
The music on this eight song collection recall past music and incorporate contemporary independent music. The jangly “Erased” recalls The Byrds, The Zombies, and far too many indie bands to list here (however, do not see that as a weakness — being influenced and incorporating those influences into your own sound is a strength). We challenge you to listen to this song and not start to sway. If you have a pulse, you will tap your toes. On “Better Days” we hear a combination of influences from The Buffalo Killers, The Monkees, Cricketbows, The Hollies, Salvadore Ross, and some of the best classic psychedelia.
On subsequent listens you will notice an almost heavy Big Star influence. Notably “Hold On” evokes a harder grooving Big Star. Imagine if Alec Chilton had a more blues voice. Just consider the crossing of Big Star and The Black Keys together. And if that was not enough, the bridge on this song just grabs you and takes you on a trip through bass runs, slinky guitar, and perfect percussion. All too often drums and bass sound like they were recorded in a room down the hall, that does not happen with this record. Nothing is tiny or tinny in these songs. The drums sound deep and resonate without getting in the way of the guitar and excellent Hammond Organ. The album closes on the standout”Green Valley” which takes the listener on an extended trip through what rock and roll can deliver when played with heft.
Lyrically the album evokes challenges of relationships, friendships, and the struggles of everyday life without sounding sullen. The vocals are crisp and clear while remaining bluesy and evocative. The interplay between the simplicity of the lyrics and the emotional release through the circling guitars, bass, and organ crescendo pack a powerful punch that dramatize the lyrical imagery; and the drums consistently drive the songs.
So, the next time you notice the usual music pundits talking about the same popular bands and artists that do not speak to you — take a moment or two or three and look a little further and you will find excellent music like that made by musicians like Farnsworth.
Elk City (released November 20, 2017)
Produced by Zachary D. Gabbard
Engineered by Keith Hanlon, Mike Montgomery
Mixed and Mastered by Mike Montgomery
Chris Vance – Guitar, Vocals
Jason Reese – Percussion, Vocals
Russel T. Felty – Bass
Kenneth Starcher – Rhodes, Hammond