The Tosspints – The Privateer

Music often labeled by the press as “folk” is overstuffed with hippy-dippy guitars, flower power arrangement, no muscle and just a general sense of “wee” this is so much fun, come hang out in the field with us. Though Saginaw, Michigan’s The Tosspints carry around the folk label, don’t expect folk that caters to the lighter side of the genre; in fact, expect something that is more than ready for battle and ready to let guitars rip through amplifiers while holding tight to the classic aura that makes good folk music what it is.

It’s established from the first note of “Pirate’s Life” that these miscreants come from the punk side of the folk tracks. It’s all a bluster of snotty vocals, loud abrasive guitars, and bass that plunges and percussion that refuses to quit. This is heavy, hard rockin’ punk stuff with an ethos to match and no time for the soft stuff. You’ll get a similar shellacking on “Untitled Western” with its cattle-rustling acoustic rockabilly rhythms and throaty blues vocals but to simply label this music as folk and forget about it is doing The Tosspints a great and most dishonorable disservice. Every groove is cold, calculated and with the requisite production warmth to get you ready to raise a barn or tear one down depending on your mood. This is folk music meeting unrestrained southern rock boogie at the crossroads of life. Anyone caught within its wake will be plowed according to next year’s crop clearing schedule.

A tried and true rendition of “Johnny Comes Marching Home” appears in “Marching Home.” Though the Tosspints take a ragged, haggard punk bent to the proceedings, there is still a recognizable song that many of us have heard over the years lurking beneath the surface. It’s always nice to hear a cover spruced up and given its own take on the subject manner. “We Are the Many” is a battle cry for the masses of sheepish sleepwalking people to stick it to the rich few since we’ve got the numbers. This one is all about John Johnson’s near d-beat punk percussion and Don Zuzula’s jangling riffs which establish a ferocious groove from the onset. They slow the pace down into some nice blues rock shifts but these moments of calm never stick around for long before getting kicked to pieces. An album of this sort would not be complete without a song like “My Last and Only Friend” which is an anthem to when the world kicks you to the ground and the bottle becomes the only places of solace. As someone that’s been there, I can relate to the subject matter and the whirlwind of rock-tinged punk only further draws me into the band’s wild, wonderful purgatory. The blazing punk rock tempos slither into a sidewinding blues/hard rock jam on the forceful “Hollow Man” where Dan stretches his vocal chords for all of his worth atop the deadly pounding of John Johnson and the submerging bass groove of Zak Zuzula. The back-up vocals are also an exquisitely nice tough that adds even more vitriol to the mixture. “Sailor’s Grave” dips from a similar well as the opener with a relentless punk beat, pinch-y twang chords, nautical themes and more energy than you can shake a locked on torpedo at. Taking things further down a dark alley of derelict country and downtrodden blues, “The Dregs” lives up to its name with its thick instrument breaks giving way to mid-tempo punk bludgeon that maintains energy in this country jam from the south side of hell. Closer “The Privateer” could have been chopped by a few minutes at over 15 minutes in length, but for the most part there’s an interesting progression from coal-mining violin groove to scratchy acoustic guitar to late game punk explosions that keeps it mostly interesting throughout.

This is a strong record and although a little bit of editing choices and sameness brings the score down a bit The Tosspints are a band with a strong record absolutely tailor made for the live-setting. This band has no boundaries or limitation to their sound and that in itself is refreshing to hear from a modern band.

8 out of 10 stars.

Montey Zike