by Sean Jewell ::
The foghorn in The Foghorns‘ sound has got to be the bass clarinet of Lauren Trew. Woozy, improvisational jazz horn wandering broadly over leader Bart Cameron’s blues compositions. Or perhaps the foghorn is the rhythm section–solid electric bass and a drummer with preternatural ability to keep time gives the whole ship liberty to sail without running up on the rocks. Then again, it may be The Foghorns choir, wailing warnings like madmen into the wind–“Ain’t I a Man!” “Money You Made!” “Go Back to Kansas!”–that declare and affirm Bart’s cynical-by-experience post-mortem of the American dream.
Or maybe the foghorn is the righteous, groovy, indignation in Cameron’s songs. The Foghorns put the American back in Americana by turning humble pie into soulful repast, tumbling gospel truths with a rocking back-beat. On their latest album, Sun’s Gotta Shine, The Foghorns offer up plenty of warning. “Ain’t I A Man” is a boogie that declares the song title rather than asks it, despite the world sometimes insisting otherwise: “So I’m stuck in the city where the geeks are kings. They’ve got all the morals of Louis the XIV. They don’t pay no taxes, send their kids overseas so they don’t have to see the poor sleeping in the streets. Makes it hard to be a man. But ain’t I a man.”
“Sons And Daughters of the Molly Maguires” throws shade at inequality using a bright back beat and historical perspective: “Yeah I guess I got that mongrel blood. When my grandma served your grandma she was told to wear gloves. But when my grandpa had enough he had to go on strike. And when striking did not work he got out dynamite.”
“400 Dollars” is a greasy jam about the difference in value of 400 dollars between musician and consumer, slyly wrapped in Cameron’s most deft guitar work, and a sprawling eight minute long song that allows drums, bass, clarinet, and chorus to all show off their chops.
My personal favorites are the two biggest stretches for The Foghorns on this album: “If You Cant Get Lucky Please Get Up,” a walking blues about the powerlessness every human who visits or lives in New York City will eventually feel, and “Alfred The Elephant,” an experimental lullaby about the virtues of a stuffed animal (the other lullaby, a song called “Lullaby,” is about an affair, or the daydream of one that you hate to wake from).
Some people have referred to The Foghorns music as country music. It’s more the music of a country like ours, but it does contain the greatest thing about country music: happy songs about life’s saddest offerings. In truth, we’d be better off if we stopped talking about what to call it and just listened to it a little more.
The Foghorns were the very first record released on the now established, tastefully curated, Knick Knack Records, and their latest album Suns Gotta Shine, the first of two albums slated for release from The Foghorns in 2015, is out now. You should be there for The Foghorns Album Release Party w/ Casey Ruff & The Rainieros at The Tractor Tavern.