Apr 14, 2011 Web Exclusive
This Athens, Ohio-based band takes us back in time for their latest release, recalling both the story and musical likeness of the Great Depression era. They stay true to what they know, though, steeping the songs in the kind of Appalachian folk that screams out with the occasional electric guitar, but mostly glimmers with organ and acoustic pickings.
Canary is a concept album that takes us along for a ride with a family stuck in a mining town with the worst kind of economic tragedy. Trombone and trumpet float atop “Cold Front Blues,” about snow’s devastating effects on a town dependant on natural resources, and ragged guitar solos rip through “1933 (Great Depression),” a track that captures a sense of hope despite hard times. Such lines as “When church lets out her face is the one I see/her dark blue eyes of mystery/are making me devout” build the multidimensional characters in Southeast Engine’s narrative. These are the sort of love songs that people stopped writing in the age of bling and Bieber.
We learn that the main character’s mother has died in “Red Lake Shore,” which starts with a faraway vocal echo. It builds with Leo Deluca’s shuffling drumbeat, and the spot-on vocal harmonies of frontman Adam Remnant, and his brother and bandmate Jesse. Billy Matheny cuts into “At Least We Have Each Other” with a hotter-than-the-Devil flame of organ, adding an old-timey feel to the chiming piano that accompanies it.
Through the album, it’s easy to develop a relationship with the family whose life Southeast Engine details. The theme rings out as especially meaningful today, with Appalachia still dealing with environmental disasters like mountaintop removal mining that wreak havoc on its communities. This is an album that finally seems to capture the feeling that Southeast Engine has been working toward since they formed in 1999. They’re writing about what they know, and the music resultantly falls right into place. (www.southeastengine.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 7/10