Artist: Teague Alexy with the Feelin Band
Album: The New Folklore
Label: Consider It Correspondence Records
Genre: Acoustic Folk/Rock
Sounds Like: The Band, Van Morrison, String Cheese Incident
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Good Clean High, Legend of Black Dolphin Road, Old Lady Truth
It’s fitting that these guys hail from Bob Dylan’s home state of Minnesota. The first comparison that came to mind as I listened to The New Folklore is to The Basement Tapes that Dylan did with the Band.
I’m also reminded of Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions, and Van Morrison, among others. And there are enough unique flourishes here – rolling piano, solo trombone, funny (sometimes darkly and sadly so) lyrics, swooping choral vocals – to indeed make this a new, fresh kind of folk.
“Anything But Blue” is a sprightly opener, featuring the first blasts of Nick "The Feelin" Mrozinski’s rippling piano and Jeff Engholm’s improbably bluegrassy trombone. In a similar vein, “Old Lady Truth” (an ugly duckling story of a main character named Hezekiah and a single-toothed woman – how can you go wrong?) bounces along like something off Dylan’s John Wesley Harding.
The shambling, laid-back funkiness of “Ol’ John Doe” (the groove reminds me of that great old Tom Petty song about getting to the point and rolling another joint) is intoxicating. Ditto for the wonderfully titled, “A Good Clean High (Off a Dirt Cheap Bottle of Wine),” a gospel-tinged tale of peculiar dichotomies (“bouncing balls hit the floor and lie flat,” “welcome rugs cover trap doors”).
Chief songwriter/guitarist Teague Alexy has a gruff, homespun vocal delivery that gives songs like “Blue” a lovelorn melancholy tinge and songs like “John Doe” a rural soulfulness. Alexy wrote or cowrote most of the songs on the disc; “The Epiphany of Sally Loves Too Much,” with its infectious wistful, hippie-ethereal air, is one of Mrozinski’s three songwriting contributions. Another Mrozinski number, the rollicking, you-think-it's over-but-it's not "Geese are Headed Southbound," closes the disc like the encore to a smokin' show.
The multi-character railroad tale “Huckleback Jenkins Train Gang” steamrolls like a more sinister “Wabash Cannonball, with instruments and vocals building in urgency to a careening end. The jazzy, barrelhouse piano-fueled “Bensontown Poker Game” is another great saga with characters from a seemingly bygone era.
“Earth Force” is honest without being over-earnest. Mrozinski’s piano adds jazzy flourishes to this folksy call to action. “Three Fish” is bouncy like a good kids’ folk tune, with great gospel call-and-response singing.
“Teufelo’s Tongue” is a great, strange story, anchored by Alexy’s nifty, off-kilter-bluesy guitar hook. The hero winds up walking away “with a mouth full of diamonds where his toungue used to be.” It’s one of the three prettiest numbers on the album, along with the oddly stunning “The Legend of Black Dolphin Road,” (a powerful soul-burner ballad with timpani, bowed bass, and ruelful harmonica adding dramatic effect) and the Randy Newman-esque lament “From a Payphone in the Rain” (the rambling lyrical image is poetic and Mrozinski’s piano actually sounds like falling rain).
Like the best of the modern folk/roots genre, The New Folklore touches on many tried-and-true styles. And while the production is clean and crisp, Teague Alexy with the Feelin Band still deliver the sound of the campfire or the saloon.