New Old West
Gregory Mulkern: Victoria De Armond.

Categories can be bandied about – catchalls like Americana or alt this or that – but this is basically old-timey Appalachian music, and done very well. The set of originals features Gregory Mulkern, a.k.a Banjoelectric (where he employs loops and effects), and Sjoerd Van Ravenzwaaij (a member of the rocked-out traditional Irish group Harmony Glen) trading vocals and supplying guitar, mandolin, banjo, and percussion. A nice rendition of the well-worn “The Cuckoo,” the only cover, starts as an instrumental duet of five-string and tenor banjos titled “Circle Woods.”

Descriptions such as “Nick Cage meets Bauhaus, a Southern Gothic song with drive” for the droning “Darkness,” or “a wide-open love song to the Wild West” for “The Land Where Casey Jones Is Gone” may be apt, but they deprive listeners from conjuring their own images. The latter calls to mind the soundtrack Ry Cooder and David Lindley contributed to the Jesse James film The Long Riders, while “Long Dead Man” hearkens to a field-worker song or chain gang.

Straddling authentic and fresh sounds is no mean feat, but Van Ravenzwaaij and Mulkern pull it off.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

No posts to display