Rustic in one track but cutting and full of warmth at the same time in the next, there’s no understating the importance of the strings in the new album Roots & Stones by Scythian. In songs like “Sail Away Johnny” and “The Motherland,” the express an intimacy that words simply cannot get across on their own, and in situations presented by the likes of “The Bruce,” “The Fight” and “Men of the North,” they contextualize lyrical content to make even the most removed of narratives sound tangible and relevant to the listener. A lot of love and time went into making the tenth album from Scythian just about as perfect as it can get, and judging from the ambitiousness of its design, it isn’t a farewell to the spotlight by any means at all.
There’s a lot more to this record than instrumental virtuosities created by the string parts alone. In the case of songs like “Galway City,” “Je Suis Coureur Des Bois” and “Virginia,” which features Catie Parker Fedoryka in a memorable guest spot, the vocal harmonies embody more spirit than the lyrics they convey ever could, and when they come pouring out of the speakers there’s really no stopping the charm they fill the air around us with. Every track has a number of working parts synchronized together as to give us a really rich listening experience, but rarely is there an instance when any arrangement in Roots & Stones sounds particularly over the top or even elaborate to the extent of being unnecessarily complex.
You don’t have to be a professional critic to hear the personal investment Scythian have in “Sweet Maryanne,” “Best Friend Song,” “The Motherland” and “Duffy’s Cut,” as the sort of passion these songs contain is a type that simply cannot be faked or practiced into existence. Artificiality has no role in this record, and although some would make the argument that Scythian’s sound would probably benefit from admitting some of the mainstream components common in the styles of their contemporaries, I don’t fault them for keeping things stripped-down for this LP. They’ve got a very distinct technique when it comes to constructing new music, and while it isn’t what some of the competition would do, that’s precisely why I think they’re standing out in the way they do here.
If you haven’t already heard the music of Scythian prior to now, I would definitely recommend hearing what they have to say in the new album Roots & Stones, as it’s definitely some of their most comprehensively endearing content to see widespread release thus far. There’s still some room for this group to grow into the sound they’ve established for themselves thus far, but at this time I would have to say they’re looking like one of the more focused bands emerging from their scene at the moment. They’ve built quite up quite a rep on the left side of the dial, and when listening to their new LP, it’s easy to understand what all of the fuss has been about.
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