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Midway Fair's folk inspiration spans centuries and continents

June 26, 2011

Midway Fair combines a unique set of sounds to create their folky amalgam. Equally at home churning out Bruce Springsteen-style rockers and English folk tunes, the band keeps listeners on their toes during its debut album The Distance of the Moon at Daybreak. Despite the deep well of influences that the members pull from (or unwittingly appropriate), they keep the songwriting straightforward and the instrumentation simple.

It’s a disarming record in that regard; the band pulls off American folk, English folk, American roots-rock with aplomb, not letting the listener settle in to any one listening experience. There isn’t, however, much mixing of the genres, as the band is content to jump around into different idioms instead of meshing them into something new. This results in some tunes that feel more comfortable for the band than others.

Rockin’ “(It’s Not) 1962” is the most assured performance of the album, led by the lead vocalist’s swagger. In other tunes he can lean too much on vibrato, making him sound warbly and underconfident, whether or not he actually is. But he locks into the band here, and it’s a highlight. The very British-sounding  “Edward Cain” is a memorable tune despite the vibrato, and “Two Crows” is the closest the band comes to merging their influences into one tune.

The most encouraging thing about The Distance of the Moon at Daybreak is that there are no total bombs. “Fairest of Them All” feels a bit staid, but the chorus is one of the best on the album. “Put On The Brake” feels a bit overblown, but the instrumental solo section is solid.

Midway Fair has a good thing going – they’re on the same path as The Low Anthem, only with more muses and more rock drumming. If they can combine their inspirations more fully into a coherent sound, Midway Fair could be something really great.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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