Straying away from the silence gently, we find the strands of a glistening harmony untouched by artificiality altogether in “Men of the North,” but as striking a sound as this is to find, it’s not isolated to this lone track in the new album Roots & Stones from Scythian. “Men of the North” is matched with free-for-all jams in the form of “Virginia” and churning numbers like “The Bruce” for good measure, while other tunes like “Best Friend Song” and “Sweet Maryanne” go against the aesthetical grain with outsider concepts more than welcome in this alternative smorgasbord of sound.
Scythian have one agenda and one agenda alone in Roots & Stones, and that’s to get us connected with the organic warmth of their songcraft by any means necessary — save for inviting synthetics into the mix. From the bucolic balladry of “The Fight” to the storm of melancholic grooves that assaults us in “Broken String,” this is an album that is full of powerful music to be shared with the world, and it couldn’t be arriving at a more optimal moment in 2020 than the present.
“Je Suis Coureur Des Bois” and “Sail Away Johnny” are a bit more controlled in their arrangement than “Duffy’s Cut” is, but I for one like the way that this record makes it impossible for us to see what’s coming around the next bend. In giving songs like “Fire in My Heart” a sugary hook in comparison to the four tracks preceding it, there’s a sudden swing in the mood of the music that we’re forced to keep up with, but the tempo of the band keeps things moving fluidly rather than chopping off one chapter only to start another seconds later.
“Sweet Maryanne” and “The Motherland” are probably the most complete songs here compositionally, but there’s an argument to be made that their narratives wouldn’t ache with as much authenticity were they surrounded by filler instead of the formidable presence of songs like “The Bruce,” “Galway City” and “Fire in My Heart.” I’m hesitant to call this a concept album, but at the same time it’s the sort of record that I want to hear from start to finish once I’ve listened to even a taste of its tracklist (which isn’t common among most of the LPs I’ve reviewed in the past year).
ORDER THE ALBUM: https://scythianmusic.com/album/1591490/roots-stones-new-release
I heard a bit about this group before I got my copy of Roots & Stones this December, but I don’t think I could have expected to be as impressed with their sound in this album as I ultimately am today. Independent of the mainstream market and sounding quite proud of this fact, Scythian issue a truly remarkable collection of stories and stacked tributes to the soul of Americana in this record, and it’s personally hard for me to imagine it not connecting with a wide audience of listeners this month. Even with the competitiveness of the modern alternative beat, Scythian have it going on in this LP — and I for one don’t plan on missing out on any of their future content.