On their latest, Jacksonville-based trio Strangerwolf waste no time in shaking hands with the shadows. Since 2014, the band (Rick Kennedy – vocals, rhythm guitar; Ryan Kennedy – vocals, drums; Jeremy Blanton – vocals, lead guitar, lap steel, and bass) has been distilling their minimalism-meets-stark emotion into a distinct style amongst local bands. The three songs on All is Borrowed, Nothing Lasts maintain their momentum that sounds increasingly languid but never melodramatic or coy.
Fanned along by acoustic guitar, and a production that drips 1980s Eno, opener “Demons” is a paean to sleeplessness, self-medication, and a monastic isolation. Rick Kennedy’s slow-burn delivery and lyrics give us a sense of reluctant but inevitable separation, and ultimate disconnection. “Empty Shelf” is a summer-time romance fated to burn away by autumn. Featuring a tasteful guest vocal by Lindsey Adamec, weeping lap steel glissandos, a lock-step groove from Jeremy and drummer Ryan that boils into an urgent shuffle, and then decays. Sounds like love to me.
Whether through design or the accidental grace of third-hand influence, EP-closer “The Whiskey, The Rain,” particularly in the soft acoustic breaks, is more akin to the late UK singer-songwriter John Martyn than Jeff Tweedy. Rick’s rolling cadence, in a back-and-forth with his bandmates, is a nice mix of Duval troubadours meets ‘60s British Isles Folk Revival.
Too eerie for purist Americana, too ethereal for parochial indie folk, Strangerwolf have created an interesting territory to prowl in the genre diaspora that is, for better or for worse, 21st-century popular music. Tellingly, the more the band moves away from any overt “roots” qualities of their earliest days (like 2015’s “Tomorrow’s Song”), the more grounded they seem to become. If there’s one criticism of All is Borrowed, Nothing Lasts is that there’s a sameness to some of the song dynamics and overall production. Yet by other ears, “sameness” could also be heard as consistency.
Still, Strangerwolf arguably know that if you dig too many holes, you miss the water right under your feet.
Click play below to listen. And if you dig it, VOID encourages you to support the artists by purchasing their music on bandcamp.