Front Country- Impossible World review

Front Country Impossible World AntiFragile Music

Each August long weekend, my favourite place on earth is the Blueberry Bluegrass site, comfortably nestled on the edge of the parkland community of Stony Plain. And one of my fondest recent memories of that site occurred witnessing, from the wings, Front Country destroy the stage with a late night set the likes the folks in the lawn chairs had seldom experienced.

“If there is a Heaven, can we make it now?”

While once Front Country was a ‘kinda’ bluegrass band—acoustic, mandolin, banjo, and the like—by the time 2019 came along, Front Country was well along their evolution to defining themselves as an acoustic, rock ‘n’ roll band. If “Sake of the Sound” was amazing upon release in 2014, by the time Melody Walker, Jacob Groopman, Adam Roszkiewicz, and Jeremy Darrow were finished with it that evening, it was an anthem for the new, next generation of pickers, singers, and watchers who absorbed their message of acceptance and passion.

“Don’t want to give up the fight.”

Where does 2020 find Front Country?

“We can’t go back to the way we were before.”

I hit play on the first track “Miracle,” and got called away momentarily. When I returned, listening to what was coming out of the speakers I thought, “Alison Moyet?” True, I’ve been revisiting her catalogue these last days, and I suppose I could have fumbled my fingers and started replaying Essex or Raindancing, but I hadn’t, and just a few more seconds allowed me to recognize Melody Walker’s powerful, nuanced approach to singing.

“If I sound like a broken record, you haven’t heard me yet!”

Nope, Front Country are no longer close to a bluegrass band, if they ever were. Re-listening to Sake of the Sound and Other Love Songs today, I better recall that the group never comfortably fit into the genre, their music always pushing toward the edges of a big tent that couldn’t constrain them. ‘Acoustic roots-rock’ is as good a descriptor of the band as I’ve identified. Politically charged, the group refuses to allow themselves to be limited by genre, style, or stereotype.

“Everyone is talking through your tears.”

“Broken Record” bounces along with an opening Madonna-vibe, Walker’s sultry voice beckoning us close enough to capture a message evoking justice and change, while “Amerikan Dream” is unapologetically targeted toward those who—in their own self-interest—wish harm to society: you know who they are! Opening with a (synthesized?) kick-drum, “Real Love Potion” is an expressive, radio-friendly offering; Walker plays with her voice, providing the song with breezy lightness transitioning into a catchy refrain.

“How can you sing if you can’t cry?”

“Across the Water” and “Mother Earth” tackle topical subjects with Joni Mitchell flair; Front Country’s recent cover of “Black Crow” (not included here, unfortunately) makes sense, as does the recent “Do Re Mi,” also not included. But that’s the Front Country sweet spot, protest-inspired folk-rock. If you’re looking for a band to ‘shut up and sing,’ you’re in the wrong neighbourhood.

“I have come across the water, to another stolen land.”

Produced by Dan Knobler (Lake Street Drive, Kelsey Waldon, Della Mae,) Impossible World is a bold, vibrant sound, highly glossed but intimate. Relocated to Nashville, the formerly San Francisco-based band has never sounded as vital, timely, and unconstrained. Front Country: find it.

“Can you handle it?”

Front Country closed their Blueberry ’19 set with the encore “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

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