The word “Americana” when applied to music conjures up visions of acoustic guitar, singing with friends around a fire, and an authentic approach to the music and lyrics. All of these things are true – at its best it can incorporate country, folk, bluegrass, and even R&B into the mix. Over the last decade or so a curious thing has taken place – as American indie bands discovered pastoral (think Nick Drake), English indie bands have discovered Americana styled music (think The Band). What happens when the two styles merge? You end up with a band like The Cornelius Crane, who have delivered a masterpiece of a record, E.P. Too.
The band’s ethos involves making music without fear of restriction or pressure to write the next radio anthem. This approach suits them well as the words glide off of their tongues as if they’ve always existed. The music shifts and sways in an easy-going manner but reaches right into the listener’s emotional core – this is heavy stuff. The band is based out of the east of Manchester, England and includes Steve Wilson on guitar & vocals, Mark Adams on bass & vocals, and Dan Adams on drum & vocals. Daniel Treacy of Television Personalities once sang about “Another Rainy Day in Manchester”, but with The Cornelius Crane you will have remembrances of good times with friends, road trips, and life’s great mysteries of love & loss.
…and I believe just what you said (about the tunes)
Oklahoma & Me – very catchy, reminds me of some of the classic records by The Band. Music shifts from a sing-a-long tune into a harder edged jam…and back again. The warm melody masks some of the slightly darker edged lyrics such as “I’m a snake in a box / I will bite when you open it up”. Out of the 4 tunes on the EP, this one is the one screaming “single”.
They Sail Like They Never Heard a Song – a moody introduction and the listener is swept into an epic song featuring stunning instrumentation and impassioned vocals. The chorus is sung with such emotion it will send chills up your spine and have you hitting the “repeat” button once the song ends. “here on the floor / but i kept my head” and variations of that sentiment fade out the song with guest female backing vox, building to a chant like mantra. Stunning.
Don’t Blame This Heart of Mine – harmonica opens the song, evoking visions of the darker side of a love affair. The song meanders in a pleasing, early 70’s Neil Young style before going for the gut with its sing-a-long chorus. The acoustic guitar stylings on this song are worth pointing out and add a nice vibe to the overall mix.
Pan & The Goat – Just acoustic guitar and vocals to start, sounding like something from the Appalachian back country. Wordless harmony enters the mix before we are treated to this lyric “Oooh, I shed a tear…” and the drums kick in, giving it a 70’s California vibe. Everything the band is doing connects on this tune, there isn’t a drum beat, vocal nuance, or guitar lick that sounds out-of-place. Perfect concluding track.
This has been a banner year for this style of music. This offering by The Cornelius Crane sits alongside albums by Honeychurch, Heyward Howkins, and the Neil’s (Halstead and Young) as one of my favorite records of 2012 based on a folk, Americana, or whatever you want to call it, sound. This release is available via digital retailers such as Itunes or Emusic. The band’s website is http://www.thecorneliuscrane.co.uk. I also recommend checking out their record label – Stereokill Recordings. You’ll find more information about the band, tour information, and other great acts.
Verdict: British Americana Dream