Thursday, June 28, 2012

Music Review: Scythian, It's Not Too Late

I don't normally do music reviews, but music was my first love. Scythian is a band I've seen play live a dozen or more times. They're extraordinary when doing live shows. It's the only band I've ever seen successfully make their audience do leg kicks in unison. Perhaps they use hypnosis, or perhaps it's the intoxicating strains of the fiddle.
One of the hardest things about a band with so much live charisma is the ability to capture that energy and personality in a studio album. Wisely, the band has released two live albums which are the next best thing to seeing them (though if they come to your neighborhood, I suggest you get to a show). It's Not Too Late is their newest studio album, released just a year after their previous, American Shanty.
It's Not Too Late marks a slight shift in their sound, as they explore the many facets of their musical identity: Celtic, bluegrass, Americana, southern rock, Eastern European gypsy sound, folk, and more. Somehow they blend all these aspects to make a sound that is uniquely Scythian. They've become known in Celtic and folk music circles for their raw and raucous fiddle and guitar sounds that are covered with the dust of the road and the colors of their travels. This album shows us some of the softer side of Scythian; perhaps Scythian in love? The title track of the album, is a gentle song about taking your opportunities to find love. This theme is touched on again in the sweet sentiment of "End of the Street"-- a song about falling a little bit in love while living the gypsy life style of a musician, and that feeling is capped with the penultimate track of the album, the addictive "That Girl." It's a rollicking southern rock song that could have easily been the hot song of the summer thirty or forty years ago. It has a charming sense of nostalgia.
The instrumental tracks on the album show off the traditional Celtic licks of the group with the "Sheldon House Reels," a powerful piece that builds on two fiddles and two guitars. "Halloran's Jig" will definitely tempt you to do some amateurish Irish dancing. The band reached back to their roots with the Ukranian, "Arkan" which takes you another time and place with a sense of tradition captured by its mournful fiddle and masculine chanting.
This has been a transition year for the band, losing one member and gaining two more. Unfortunately the two brothers who form the hub of the band, Alexander and Danylo Fedoryka suffered a personal loss recently as well. This album is dedicated to their late mother who is memorialized in the song, "The Only One."
No doubt, things are changing for the boys of Scythian, they've cut down their touring schedule for 2012 and are maybe developing in some new directions. After about a decade on the road, this shift might be just what they need to breathe new life into their music. They remain one of my favorite groups, especially to watch live. The albums are never the same as experiencing their performance, but their latest offering is solid and has many powerful highlights that emphasize the band's almost chameleon like versatility, but ultimately shows us that in spite of all the variety, it's always all Scythian.

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