Slender but buoyant and mixed with a healthy amount of low-end tonality, the acoustic guitar that we find in the opening bars of The Stifftones’ “Midwestern Town” is splendidly organic in its earthy, melodic emissions, which isn’t something that can be said for most of the string play I’ve been reviewing in 2019. The Stifftones are an Americana duo, and despite only consisting of two talented individuals, they give us a juggernaut of emotion, harmony and texture in their official debut single, “Midwestern Town,” and it’s captivating croon and instrumental prowess are more than enough to satisfy my acoustic needs this summer.
The master mix splits our focus between the beautiful duet at the forefront of the track and the stately strum of the guitar strings, but the contrasting components never become overwhelming or unnecessarily surreal. Much like Brooks Forsyth and the critically-acclaimed Timber, The Stifftones are filtering their folk tones through a postmodern, somewhat alternative style of songwriting, and it’s produced a song in “Midwestern Town” that is equally as cerebral as it is sharp, simple and adherent to the traditional framework of old school Americana. It’s conceptual, but not quite avant-garde in nature.
“Midwestern Town” is definitely no country song, but I can imagine it appealing to Nashville’s more neglected fans this season just the same. There’s a mild bucolic energy to the lyricism here, and on more than one occasion it bleeds into the melody of the guitar, binding the two quite exquisitely. For how rustic alternative country was sounding towards the mid-2010s, the genre has yet to show us anything nearly as creative and evocative in spirit as this single is. I’m interested in seeing if The Stifftones expand upon their pastoral themes in their next release, but at any rate, what they’ve done here has convinced me to stay tuned regardless.
This is the only song that I’ve heard from The Stifftones so far, but I cannot wait to see what they design for us in their next studio offering. Their warm, poetic style is no doubt a passionate product of hard work and years of artistic cultivation, and as these two make their way into the established Americana scene, I have a feeling that they’re going to find a most-welcoming audience waiting for them on the other side of the mainstream. “Midwestern Town” is an unforgettable ballad, and a song that I would tell any country, folk and roots rock fan to give a spin the next time that they’re looking for new summer music.