Under Review: Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk

When four premier indie songwriters come together to record, you know that something special is going to happen.  Combine Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes with My Morning Jacket’s Jim “Yim Yames” James and the ever-productive M. Ward, and you get the winkingly-dubbed Monsters Of Folk.  To be clear, this is not the mud-caked, Old Pool Farm style of folk music, but rather a modern spin on rootsy, evocative songwriting.  As if to quell any notions that this project is bound to the constraints of acoustic fingerpicking, the group’s self-titled album begins with “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.),” a synthy, gospel-inflected piece that is straight out of the MMJ songbook.  Each of the Monsters gets equal time in spotlight, whether it’s trading off verses in a manner most Wilburys-y (“Say Please”) or providing a call-and-response counterpoint (“Goodway”).  Even if the boys aren’t totally folk musicians, plenty of folkisms are referenced musically throughout the album.  “Man Named Truth” unfurls like one of Dylan’s mid-career jaunts into Spanish-influenced music, and “Magic Marker” features a bottleneck guitar that would make any bluesman proud.  Monsters Of Folk is mostly downtempo, but those slower numbers (Ward’s “The Sandman, The Brakeman And Me” and Oberst’s “Ahead Of The Curve”) bring out the best in the guys.  The quartet originally formed in 2004 for a series of live performances, and while the chemistry and spontaneity of those shows may be impossible to recapture, the recorded account of the Monsters Of Folk is as freewheeling, fascist-killing, and morning-hammering as anyone could want.

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~ by E. on September 21, 2009.

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