Folk Family Revival, Unfolding

Folk Family Revival, Unfolding

How old are these guys, again? That’s the thought that keeps replaying in my head, over and over again, as I listen to the Folk Family Revival’s debut full-length, Unfolding. It boggles my mind that at least a couple of the four band members — brothers Mason, Barrett, and Lincoln Lankford and Caleb Pace — aren’t even legal to drink yet, but they can somehow channel this road-worn, world-weary (but unbeaten) sound, the kind that by all rights should be coming from somebody twice their age and with a lot more scars. It seems damn near impossible.

And yet, there it is. Not only do the Revival boys play some awesomely rootsy music, shuffling easily from quieter, folkier tracks to all-out barroom hootenannies, but they do it incredibly well, well far beyond their years. At the heart of it, a lot of it is country, I’ll admit it, and it even edges occasionally towards the bland, bland radio-country I loathe — but right when it starts to, like on the bitter, melancholy kiss-off tune “Have a Nice Life,” the song smoothly shifts into something totally different, something more desperate and almost indie-rock-sounding. The first time I heard it happen, I laughed out loud (in a good, happily surprised kind of way, mind you).

Despite that country backbone throughout, the Lankfords and Pace aren’t content to sit back and play country-by-numbers (or even alt-country-by-numbers). Rather, they throw bits and pieces of all kinds of stuff in here, from the almost surfy, wavery guitars on “Fallin'” — which also includes a nice little bit of the classic bluegrass hymn, “I’ll Fly Away” — to the gentle folk of “Holding You Now” and the raucous, yearning backwoods stomp of “Mountains.”

It’s a little funny, really, to hear that latter track, a song about the mountains calling emanating from mostly-flat Magnolia, Texas, but hey, I get that they definitely can call you from very far away, even out here in the swampy lowlands. And then there’s “Come Get Me,” which is an almost halfhearted plea to a wife(?) from her hammered husband/boyfriend/whomever to come pick him up off the floor of some bar, even though he’s not sure he wants to go…and it’s sung by, again, a guy who’s not legal to be drinking in that bar, 19-year-old frontman Mason Lankford. But hell, Johnny Cash didn’t actually have to shoot a man in Reno to sing about it, so I can’t complain.

Any complaints I’ve got, anyway, are ridiculously minor ones, because frankly, there’s not a bad song on Unfolding, period. That said, I do have my favorites, particularly the title track itself, which is triumphant but still amazed and blends perfectly the jangly, sweet-sounding acoustic guitars and sparingly-used raw electric.

Oh, and I can’t forget those great, rolling, freight-train’s-a-comin’ drums, or Mason Lankford’s defiant, forceful lyrics. When he demands, “Where is your sting? / And where is your victory?,” you can feel the fire in his voice, telling you that he knows the fight ain’t over yet.

“Have a Nice Life” is a high moment on the album, too, as is “Addicted to the Road,” which serves simultaneously as a poignant, lonely, love-gone-wrong song and a surprisingly tender ode to the traveling, touring life. “Like Waylon and Willie / I’m always lonely and cold,” Lankford sings, sounding resigned, almost okay with the situation, and then he proclaims that his true home’s always been the highway. It’s a great, great glimpse into the life of a touring musician. (Although I’m not sure I’d have called Johnny Cash “old” when he married June Carter while in his mid-30s…)

There’s a heavy undercurrent running through Unfolding about faith and redemption — about trying to hold on and figure things out, it seems like, even when it seems impossible. It’s a little more apparent on some tracks than others (I suspect, for instance, that the eponymous mountain in “Mountain” is a metaphor for the Promised Land), but it rolls beneath the whole thing, not in a preachy way but in a wondering, uncertain way.

And at the album’s end, appropriately, with closing track “Ye of Little Faith,” it could be the lack of sleep talking, but it sure seems like the Folk Family Revival and Lankford seem to be warning us all not to give up hope, that all our questions will be answered one of these days. Here’s hoping they’re right.

[Folk Family Revival is playing its album release party 7/9/11 at Dosey Doe Coffee Company in The Woodlands.]
(Magnolia Red --; Folk Family Revival --; Folk Family Revival (Facebook) --
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, July 9th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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6 Responses to “Folk Family Revival, Unfolding

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Venomous Maximus (Rev’d!) + Mason Lankford + The Handshake + Kashmere Stage Band + More on August 19th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    […] Lankford, the frontman for the excellent, excellent Folk Family Revival (reviewed their new album a little while back, too), will seemingly be in two places at once […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Folk Family Revival (Rev’d!) + Dax Riggs + Devin The Dude + Wails + Jealous Creatures + More on September 11th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    […] Waaaaay up in The Woodlands, at the Dosey Doe Coffee House, Magnolia-dwellers Folk Family Revival (formerly known as “Mason Lankford & the Folk Family Revival”) are playing a cool-sounding release party for their debut full-length, Unfolding — label/management group Magnolia Red was kind enough to send it our way, and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. Check out the title track in the Mixtape, over there on the right, and then read the full review over here. […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend: M83 + Mates of State + GN’R + Girl in a Coma + Young Girls + Tinariwen + Tiger Lillies + More on November 4th, 2011 at 11:12 am

    […] Magnolia boys Folk Family Revival that really make this show — their debut(?) album, Unfolding, is mind-blowingly great, even to an avowed country-music hater like yours truly. Every time I hear […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: IDentity + DiverseWorks + Folk Family Revival + The Julys + Prairie Cadets + More on May 2nd, 2012 at 12:26 am

    […] some great afternoon sets at Cactus, with the awesome Folk Family Revival — new album Unfolding is flat-out great — at 1PM and The Mathletes at 4PM…and hey, their new album Excalibur […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Axiom 25th Anniversary (Day One) + The Wrong Ones + Fox and Cats + Folk Family Revival + More on November 23rd, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    […] real draw for me — playing first is the incredible Magnolia band Folk Family Revival, whose Unfolding is one of the best albums I’ve heard in several years. Well, well worth checking […]

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: these days + Black Coffee + Little Rhianna Benefit + Folk Family Revival + Youth Brigade + Blackmarket Syndicate + More on January 4th, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    […] Folk Family Revival. I seriously, seriously love these guys, having been bowled over by their album Unfolding a few years back, and I’m very happy to hear they’re finally working on a […]

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