Sound Advice: Frontier Ruckus (Feb. 23)

Frontier Ruckus plays Folk music for Indie Rock fans (or Indie Rock for Americana fans) at the Southgate House Revival.

Feb 22, 2017 at 10:19 am

click to enlarge Frontier Ruckus - Photo: Elise Mesner
Photo: Elise Mesner
Frontier Ruckus
As has often been noted, much of today’s commercially successful Country music seems to simply be Pop music with the light addition of fiddle, banjo or some other instrument so crucially tied to the genre. It seems like as soon as those elements were stripped from, say, Taylor Swift’s music, she was instantly moved from the “Country” to the “Pop” queue.

Though far less calculated, that intersection is similar to the crossroads where Detroit band Frontier Ruckus lives. Often called a “Folk Rock” act, at its essence, Frontier Ruckus’ fantastic, melody-rich songs and general aura have more in common with Indie Pop/Rock bands like Beulah, Death Cab for Cutie, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes or The Apples in Stereo than, say, Steve Earle or The Lumineers. The primary difference is that Frontier Ruckus’ music prominently features violin and banjo.

Not that there aren’t moments of organic twang or hints of Folk in the band’s approach. On its latest (and finest) album, the just-released Enter the Kingdom (produced by Ken Coomer, former drummer for Wilco, a band that most gracefully balanced on the lines between Roots music and Pop, Prog and other styles), there are guitar and pedal-steel leads that are clearly derived from traditional Country influences, and it’s not difficult to see how one might jump to the “Folk” conclusion when hearing the beautiful harmonies between frontperson/songwriter Matthew Milia and bassist Anna Burch laid out over stark acoustic guitar strumming. But it is done so imaginatively — and there’s so much else going on throughout the album and within each track — it almost seems a disservice to label it simply “Folk Rock,” lest it scare away potential listeners. 

With its emotionally resonating lyrics (revolving around the everyday challenges of Milia’s upbringing), the varied instrumentation and the lush, layered arrangements of the various string-laden tracks, Enter the Kingdom is an incredibly dynamic piece of music that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. Call it Folk music for Indie Rock fans or Indie Rock for Americana fans — beneath it all, it’s simply one of the best albums to come out in this young year.

Click here for tickets/more show info.