Folk rock has always been a kind of misnomer, as it’s generally neither one nor the other, or worse it’s just one pretending to be the other.
Yet the Treetop Flyers have decided this is the life for them. Which is quite worrying territory considering recent crimes against this genre by The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, but here goes.
So what exactly is ‘Palomino‘? Well, it’s their second album, and more importantly it is folk rock. But here’s where it gets interesting, because it really is folk rock.
Folky and rocky, rocky and folky and so on and so forth. It ploughs a very particular furrow and digs deeper and deeper with every pass. Once heard, you can’t unhear it, and once discovered you can’t uncover it, this will stay with you.
‘You, Darling You‘ is, like everything else on this album, passionate and powerful, with vocals that are both folksy and honest, and soulful and true. ‘Lady Luck‘, on the other hand, is a little more classic, taking in the more reflective moments of 60’s and 70’s rock. This is a performance that has everything, from Robert Wyatt’s ‘Shipbuilding‘ to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s ‘Lucky Man‘ or Jethro Tull’s ‘Days We Used to Know‘. It’s wonderfully done.
And moments like this abound throughout the album. In fact, it’s almost not worth discussing them as they make the extraordinary almost commonplace. So, let’s not dwell on greatness, let’s look at when the album tipples over into the sublime. Three times to be precise.
(1) Where folk rock stands aside: ‘It’s a Shame‘. Some might see it as just showing off, when they venture off piste into blue-eyed soul, but none can deny its brilliance. Dripping with the spirit David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans‘ or Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side‘, it even has their wondrous way with backing vocals; “And the colored girls go, Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo”. Give or take some Doo’s.
(2) Folk psych freakout: ‘Dance Through the Night‘. Epic, storming and just amazing from end-to-end. It even has wonderful Stone Roses ‘I Am The Resurrection‘ pace and tone, switcheroo slap, bang in the middle that leads to a brilliantly funky ass finale.
(3) The very core that this album is beating round: ‘31 Years‘. A beautiful ode to someone missed. Not since Temple Of The Dog’s ‘Say Hello To Heaven‘ has loss, and the void it leaves, been so beautifully captured.
This triumvirate push ‘Palomino’ into being something more, something special. The Treetop Flyers’ abilities add authenticity to everything just by plugging in and opening their mouths. Not many bands deliver this kind of integrity, or at least haven’t in a long time.
And it’s this authenticity that works so well, and makes for so many moments of true power. It’s like a wonderfully powerful, emotive and moving cousin to The Stands‘ ‘All Years Leaving‘. Bringing that album’s style and beauty forward, only this is rawer and hungrier.
Which is something you don’t expect from a band making folk rock, but then why shouldn’t you? Maybe this is what folk rock was always meant to be.
If so, then let’s hope it’s here to stay, and if not, then let’s hope whatever it is is here to stay.