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Fire on Fire - The Orchard

The Orchard

Fire on Fire

Young God Records - YG38

Available from Young God Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

There's a reason why the recording here is a bit on the lo-fi side. It has to do with ideology. Fire on Fire used to be the art-damage group Cerberus Shoal, maintaining a chaotic vibe exploring wilder shores but made an abrupt right turn to veer into elder tradition and acousticity. The Orchard is the result, and it returns to almost ancient American / British roots, the music extremely folky, at times on a level with the Weavers, plied via banjo, guitar, harmonium, and such. Favoring a two-microphone approach, the ensemble performing directly live, a rustic ambiance is achieved, lending a great deal of hybrid modernized authenticity, though historied forebears would rarely achieve the level of harmony and progression shown here.

Appearing on the barriers-breaking Young God label, in Fire on Fire what the sophisticated audience hears is a blend of Appalachian, the Grateful Dead, Strawbs, Incredible String Band, Patti Smith, madrigalian folk, the Band, even touches of Sammlas Mammas Manna here and there, importing older pan-European strains. However, the lyrics are quite to-the-moment, oft shot through with cynicism and sharp satire, as Assanine Race demonstrates not only in the title but throughout some rather scathing sentiments. Every line written, though, ignores the niceties of the New Age for a return to the days when folk was a blend of searing social criticism and unhedging honesty.

The music becomes ever more entrancing as the CD progresses, built on the passion of savage hearts thirsty for group harmonics and dynamics in a bed of counterpoint and melody extension. Female vocals provide a distinct coloration separated from the males' gruffer tenor but just as engrossing. Neil Youngian atmospheres (Toknight) waft in with that frail mid-West beauty Neil's so talented at (though Tsunami is even starker), a women's backing chorus emphasizing the nervous edge often hidden in his work. Then, when the everyone chimes in, a Goodnight Irene environment reminisces on its antecedents.

Like many Young God products, this is a very deceptive CD ripe with full-fleshed maturity, often almost shocking in its eruditions, never remiss in delivering a potent angle on hallowed traditionalism while injecting sly latterday tweaks and tune-ups. With works like The Orchard, there's a hell of a potent underground tracking the mainstream, waiting for the listening public to hip up and reap a cornucopia of what will eventually turn the culture away from disaster-capitalism retardo-craft, back into the divine sustainability of honest art.

Track List:

  • Sirocco
  • Heavy D
  • Assanine Race
  • The Orchard
  • Flordinese
  • Hartford Blues
  • Toknight
  • Squeeze Box
  • Flight Song
  • Grin
  • Tsunami
  • Haystack

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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