Folk-pop by definition has singable melodies in it. But there are gradations within that distinction: Mumford and Sons’ tunes are essentially pop songs that happen to be played on folk instruments, while bands like o’death come much more clearly out of a storytelling-heavy Americana tradition. An easy indicator of where a band falls on this spectrum is the level of attention given to the vocals in the mix.
Schucks Road falls toward the poppy side, playing songs in the vein of The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, and old-school Caedmon’s Call (when Derek Webb was still with them). Their five-song EP One By Land features vocals prominently, but never neglects putting a song under the vocal melody. This gives fans of singing along plenty to exercise their vocal cords upon, while still showing that there are songwriting chops to be appreciated. Opener “Flesh & Bone” and piano-heavy “The Bar” deliver rapid-fire, Avetts-style singing, while “Heart of the Country” and “Lantern” deliver resonant, comfortable vocal harmonies. The latter strips some of the pop sheen away to focus on the hymn-esque, gospel vocal melodies and a poignant fiddle performance. It’s a highlight track that gives their strengths the full spotlight.
Schucks Road’s One by Land is a good introduction to a band with vocal poise and songwriting skill. If you’re still into the genre (someone told me that The Lumineers are “over”; are we reaching the end of the folk-pop moment?) as hard as I am, this will be a worthy listen for your upcoming relaxing weekend.