The Foghorn Stringband: Devil In The Seat
Old-time music played by American string bands is something most commonly associated with the southern Appalachian mountains. The Foghorn Stringband, however, are a foursome based in Portland, Oregon and are now the foremost practitioners of this style. Devil in the Seat is the latest in their already long list of album releases and it has surely never been bettered.
For just over 45 minutes the listener is left almost breathless as they breeze through 16 songs and tunes with fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo and double bass. Each one is performed impeccably and with a joyful ease and simplicity. Among the best of their selections are the traditional ballads ‘Henry Lee‘, ‘Pretty Polly’ and ‘John Hardy’. Also worthy of note is the gospel song ‘Longing For a Home’ and the gorgeous instrumental ‘Chadwell’s Station’.
It’s not all strings as the unaccompanied ‘What Will We Do?’ is a fine vocal effort sung by the band’s two female members Reeb and Nadine. This traditional song most likely originates from the British Isles and was recorded by English folk singers June Tabor and Maddy Prior in the 1980s. Its latest incarnation shows the folk process at work as it travels across the ocean to the USA.
Devil in the Seat is an example of this music at its best and those who remember the New Lost City Ramblers of yore should delight in this release as they carry on the torch well into the 21st century. As their album notes rightly say, “American roots music is a never-ending well of inspiration” and The Foghorn Stringband are the present day shining gold standard for string band music.
Devil in the Seat was recorded in Hawaii and is released on the band’s own label. They have been touring the UK and Ireland this month and will return to Europe in July for dates in Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. Further details on their website: