[8 January 2013]
Every week the line between folk and indie gets blurred a little more – see the Avett Brothers, Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Shoves and Rope, and about 1,000 other bands who space won’t permit me to list here – and Kentucky octet (!) the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers are doing to their part to transcend genre on their fourth full-length, Myths & Routines. The BCLP aren’t afraid to expand on the bluegrassy sound that fuels their albums; they call it “Kentucky bluegrass stretched to its modern limits.” Guitarist Nick Fahey provides a welcome rock edge to the mandolin/banjo/violin mix. But the album’s best tunes hew closest to stereotypical Appalachian tropes: there’s moonshinin’, on the menacing “Reaper’s Jug” (“If the moonshine don’t kill me, it won’t be for lack of opportunity”), the drunken, fight-prone boob-flashers who co-narrate “The Welder”, and charming broke-guy-woos-a-gal “Frank’s Song”. (For what it’s worth, there’s also a song about adult-diaper-clad-astronaut-would-be-murderer Lisa Nowak.)
On a more serious note, though, chief lyricist Travis Young is interested in getting out and seeing the world – if not to escape suburban ennui, then as an act of self-improvement and definition. The narrator of “Runner’s High” chases the titular feeling to escape the black cloud born when his woman left town. Similar lines run through “Open Seas (Cohen’s Song)” (the band’s best bid to be the Alabama Shakes), “The Moment to Be Born”, and the optimistic closer, “The Great Unknown”. Usually, you either embrace your home or get the hell out of there, but on Myths & Routines, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers show that there is indeed a Third Way.