Moors and McCumber
Primary URL: http://www.moorsandmccumber.com/
Most folk bands can’t seem to update an age-old sound into the future. That’s not saying that the genre needs it. It really doesn’t have to perform such a function to have merit, but the only way new sounds can be created is by making a hodgepodge stew and see if you cook up a delicacy. Moors and McCumber integrate electric guitar, indie influences and pop songwriting into a cohesive bridge of the gap between the rustic folk music of yore with the more up-to-date feel of The Lumineers on their 4th full-length platter, Pandemonium.
The lush harmony vocals and soulful softness of “Crack a Smile” showcases a duo that has probably studied the greats such as Simon and Garfunkel or Hall and Oates. They know how to tie their voices together for smooth verses, emotive choruses and plenty of resolution. Acoustic guitars caress the sensory glands while the piano chimes in during all of the right crescendos. Differing from other folk bands, there is a nice sense of percussion with a rock flavored beat and subtle snare filling giving the music more bottom than most.
Ballads are a major factor on the album, adding up to over half of Pandemonium’s running time. While that’s not always a good idea even for seasoned artists with decades in the business, Moors and McCumber alter tone and mood in these situations enough so that things never fall into a stale routine. “Take Me Away” is a brilliant contrast of sunny mandolin shades and a rumbling cello that lends additional strength to a song that tells of love lost in poetic, Earthy stanzas. This song features some of the heartiest vocals on the album with Moors and McCumber harmonizing at the top of their lungs as they play off each other in astounding melody. Elsewhere, “All Great Tragedy” strips away the extra instruments leaving only the strum of mandolin and the twinkle of guitar to keep the progressions intact.
I’m not saying that this album lacks energy. That would be a bold-faced lie. They get a hot, barn-burning blaze going on “You Take Me Somewhere”. The guitars, bass and fiddle congeal into a pyre of incendiary proportions with enough pluck n’ circumstance on hand to inspire a ride across the hard country on horseback as the vocals push harder and so does the melodies. “If Living Was Easy” features the harmonica in a prominent role. This composition is so old time-y sounding I wouldn’t be surprised if Hank Williams had it in his songbook at one point or another. “Bend or Be Broken” has a thumping backbeat and an almost waltz style arrangement which is a nice departure from the traditional tunes and closing title track could win an award for the most beautiful song I’ve heard all year. It’s played in the key of heartbreak and it will pull on the heartstrings no matter how hard you resist.
Pandemonium is without a doubt one of the year’s best records. In a world crowded with pop, radio rock, rap and techno, honest to God songwriters are hard to come by. Moors and McCumber are taking the movement back for all of the greats who toiled away to see their hard work usurped by digestible pop. No music fan should miss this masterpiece.