Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Rough and Tumble: Charms Galore in the Folk Tradition

April 8, 2018

The Rough and Tumble‘s We Made Ourselves a Home When We Didn’t Know is a giant tour of acoustic music in and around the folk tradition. While the duo puts the focus squarely on their vocals, they also support the vocals with strong, interesting arrangements.

Mallory Graham has a big, powerful voice well-suited to traditional, high-drama alt-country/folk (dramatic alt-country: “Viroqua, WI,” “Better for You”; folk: “Steel in My Blood”). Scott Tyler has a voice more suited to alt-folk/folk-pop a la Nickel Creek (“Take Me With You,” “Let’s Get the Band Back Together”), so they cover a lot of ground here in this album. When they sing together, it takes on a duet-ish alt-country feel with a bit of indie-pop thrown in (i.e. there’s a glockenspiel in “Steel in My Blood”).

The arrangements that support these vocals are always strong and clear; there are no fluffy songs and no filler instruments in the arrangements–just tight, strong folk music. “Bobby and Joanne” connects all their tendencies in one tune, with male/female vocals, alt-country roots, indie quirks, banjo strum, and folk-pop percussion stomp. The excellent “Tiny Moses” also is an examplar piece of work and a good starting place for people to enter the record. (Bonus / bummer: the intro will make you pine for The Low Anthem.)

I personally enjoyed the swift fingerpicking and glockenspiel of “Cohabitation Physics,” as the instruments made me think of Josh Ritter and Justin Towns Earle. The tune continues on into a fun folk-pop piece with accordion and mouth trumpet.

If you’re into a wide range of acoustic-oriented sounds, you’re going to have a lot of fun discovering the many surprises and gems of The Rough and Tumble’s We Made Ourselves a Home When We Didn’t Know. It has charms galore.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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