Wednesday, 28 August 2013

#158: The Last Scout - Self-Titled

Recently, folk music has found itself at the forefront of a resurgence. No longer is it destined to remain a staple of spit and sawdust bars, specialist festivals and niche radio stations. Nor is it only reserved for beardy types who have memorised the entire Emmy-Lou Harris back catalogue (although admittedly there are still a good amount of beards at play). These days folk music seems to have returned to it's roots as a music for the people, by the people. Sure bands such as Mumford & Sons has catapulted it to the dizzying platforms of stadium shows and bigger festivals than perhaps the public was expecting, but that doesn't stop the plethora of acts and artists in the grass-roots scene from plying their trade with enough heart and candour to make anyone swoon. One such band are Cheshire's The Last Scout.

A four-piece act who formed through a shared love of acoustic music, art and photography, The Last Scout are a band whose intelligence and song-writing prowess are shadowed only by their obvious passion for each musical undertaking. Having featured the band earlier in the year and following their progress since, I was excited to learn that the band have finally put together their self-titled, first EP, and even though it's yet to be mastered, the record is a brilliant example of just what the band are capable of.

Beginning with an impactive fusion of picked guitar, cymbals and an effective sample in the form of the intro of 'The Cowboy Song', The Last Scout kicks off proceedings in a brilliant fashion whilst embracing the cultural heritage of a genre that bridges continental divides. Rich vocal layers glide effortlessly over skilled finger-picking and almost-militant drum rolls in a bid to contemporise an aesthetic doused in Americana. All thoughts of the Wild West quickly dissipate, however, when the first notes and harmony of the quaint and delicate 'Scar Love' follow on. A personal favourite of mine, 'Scar Love' is a swooning and quintessentially British affair that adds romantic cello and vocal layers to a backbone of subtle percussion and guitar. It comes off sounding like the record Kate Nash wanted to make before she realised her lyricism left a lot to be desired, and as such, it's all the better for it.

Indeed, that should be the only comparison between the two acts. The final three tracks featured on The Last Scout do nothing to hamper any expectations laid out by the first two, with 'Burn' particularly being a stand-out track in which a vocal duality steals the show amidst haunting guitars. It's a darker, heavier addition to the record, but a welcome one nevertheless, and it's positioning allows the the proceeding tracks ('Alone Tonight' and 'By Starlight' respectively) to sore back to the uplifting and romantic heights established earlier.

One of the most appealing facets of The Last Scout, is their decision not to use their own images; instead the band create their own artwork and photography to use within their work, choosing to let their music and indeed the bespoke art that surrounds it to speak for itself. It's an unusual way of doing things but it's a good way (one that will appeal to those familiar with Canada's Arts & Crafts label) and goes hand in hand with the folk image that The Last Scout are upholding.

Folk bands these days seem to be ten a penny but rarely is there as much care, candour and romance at play as there is here. The Last Scout is a relatable and indeed important record, and not just for the band. It's a statement, a statement that says folk music is still for everyone. They're not just songs about the band's life; they're songs about yours. And while it might be “a perfect day for a breakdown” it won't be as bad as you think, especially if The Last Scout are sound-tracking it. Captivating stuff.