Soo Line Loons take their name from a local railroad that runs Southeast through Minnesota.
The band comprise of Grant Glad (vocals, guitar, bass mandolin), Erik Loftsgaarden (mandolin, organ, guitar, banjo, keys, backing vocals), Robin Hatterschide (drums, percussion, backing vocals). Kristi Hatterschide (violin), Sam Hall (bass) and Matthew Fox (lap steel, guitar, harmonica, bass). Their third self-titled album is released this month.
The album opens with `Old Mill` and it`s, as the band have related, a sort of folky rock n’ roll murder ballad. Running water and a hooting owl lead us into this quite dark number with thumping drums and a moody violin setting the scene of a story relating to a place of baptism that seems to hide some dark secrets. The vocals almost take on a spoken word texture just over halfway adding to the eerie ambience of this track. There`s a mix of Americana and Blues on `Been A Long Winter` which has some sublime banjo and delightful harmonica snatches. A tale of a fisherman suffering hard times and feeling that life holds no hope.
I loved the lyrics on `Can`t Stop Singing The Blues` which seem to say whatever happens just keep on singing the blues. It`s stop start at times but has some splendid violin licks and thumping drums that ensure it races along at times. There`s more of a bluesy rock quality to `Die Young` which has a stunning saxophone that weaves in and out as this journey progresses. I think like the narrator we all, at times thought we`ll die young.
`Funktry` is a brief funky interlude with a dreamy female vocal harmonising atop a delightful piano composition. We have another simmering pensive bluesy tale of possible adolescence angst with `Don`t Let Me Go` where the perpetrator seems to want to rail against their strict upbringing.
`What they Don`t Tell You` is a country blues tinged parable of a recovering alcoholic that can`t seem to get a break despite their efforts to overcome their addiction. The stripped back feel with lap steel, piano, brushed drums, and despairing vocals highlighted the real poignancy of the situation. The band brought in several guest players on this album and on `Hope` Minnesota legend, Charlie Parr plays slide guitar. It`s a pretty fast paced number relating to another person who has made some bad decisions based around the demon drink and is trying to move on with their life and the belief which keeps them going is Hope.
The album closes with `Amen` a ballad like offering that reflects on what we leave behind when we depart this mortal coil. Mandolin, violin, and some piano keys complement the emotion wrung out in this contemplative, introspective and meditative account.
I hadn`t heard any previous Soo Line Loons albums so this was a wonderful introduction for me. A quick listen and It`s obvious that the band are seasoned musicians who are able to deliver a wide variety of beautifully written numbers which range from murder ballads, folk tunes, through blues, rock, country to Americana. If i`m ever lucky enough to visit the Land of 10,000 lakes, I’ll definitely be jumping on the Soo Line to catch these Loons.
Rating 9 /10