FAME Review: The Tillers - Hand On the Plow
The Tillers - Hand On the Plow

Hand On the Plow

The Tillers

Available from Muddy Roots Music Recordings.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.

"Big emotions and small observations sung at rafter-rattling Saturday night volume and with church-whispering Sunday morning reverence. The Tillers are a marvel. Every show, every song, every note."Brian Baker, CityBeat…… "The Tillers… I could sit and listen to them all night long!"Iris Dement.

Damn, but I love it when others practically write the review for you, and those two pretty much did. Or would have if I had the chutzpah to print the simple statement, "What they said…" and leave it at that. My conscience, though, won't let me and you will have to just suffer through a comment or two of my own before heading out to your local record store to pick up a copy. Or your local website. More about that later.

You will, you know. Head out to see what this album is all about. Virtually. If you like Americana with an old-timey edge. My first thought upon hearing it was Morrison & West—Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, to be exact. That duo out of Seattle have captured so much of what old-timey music was and can still be on their two albums (Holy Coming of the Storm and Our Lady of the Tall Trees) by dragging it into the 21st Century (it is the 21st Century, isn't it?). I mean, you have got to hear these guys!

Which is a sneaky underhanded way to plug a band—by comparing them so another band. But hear me out. In comparing, I am pointing out that The Tillers are THAT GOOD! I LOVE Morrison & West and am slowly learning to love The Tillers. Well, not so slowly, really. They are growing on me rather fast. Both bands have a sense of music way beyond the pale. Both excel in their musicianship. Both have a depth of soul. Both play this kind of music because they have to. You don't pull off albums like Hand On the Plow without that sense.

It is packed, this album. Packed with a certain shade of bluegrass, with a look back while looking forward, with a strong look inward. Think The Blue Sky Boys or The Louvin Brothers if they were playing today. Think Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice during their bluegrass jag a few decades ago. Think the country side of The Kingston Trio (yes, they had one) and the non-wacky side of Homer & Jethro (yes, they had one of those, too).

The thing that really amazes me about this album is that there is banjo buried in this music. I have begun to hate banjo to a degree (and ukulele too). I hear it too much. No, wait. I hear it misused too much. With The Tillers, it is more of being used, period, without placing it out front. It just IS, and you don't know how much that pleases me in these days of musical fads.

Set yourself, sports fans. The Tillers have something many of you are looking for. Music sounding like it was recorded right in your living room. By a band which really knows what it is doing.

Now, more about that "more later" comment. When I received this album, I received much more. I got a whole website full of cool music and merchandise and things I had no idea existed but which I find fascinating. Caught my attention right off with the headline "Ah… That New Vinyl Smell" which led to "Music Your Record Player Craves" and on and on. You really have to check this out! Humor intertwined with goodies. Posters, hoodies, T-shirts and more. And, yes, they have VINYL! They even accept credit cards, for gosh sake! You want to get some cool Christmas gifts for your hillbilly hubby, here's where you can go. Very cool.

While you're there, you can also pick up a copy of The Tillers' Hand On the Plow. Consider this a recommendation. A strong one.

Track List:

  • Old Westside
  • The Road Neverending
  • Shanty Boat
  • I Gotta Move
  • Willy Dear
  • Tecumseh On the Battlefield
  • Can't Be True
  • Long Summer Day
  • 500 Miles
  • Treehouse
  • Weary Soul

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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