New American Farmers - Brand New Day
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: April 9, 2013
New American Farmers are Arizona expatriates Paul Knowles and Nicole Storto who have found refuge in Berkeley, CA. Brand New Day is their debut release. And hot damn is it something.
As the name implies, the album is a rootsy affair and nowhere is that more vibrant than on the rollicking opening track "Everywhere." Replete with banjo, a buoyant chorus and a slight veer towards 1970s Laurel Canyon, "Everywhere" is as sterling an opener as one could ask for. The title track is an amiable and pleasant foray into mid-tempo country that anchors itself in Dave Walker's lilting slide guitar. Whereas "Everywhere" was a study in bluegrass, "Brand New Day" is more or less a study in revisiting the Hank Williams catalog.
The album's second big statement comes in the form of "Sad Hotel," and coasts on the efforts of Dave Zirbel's pedal steel. Quintessential and long-lasting, "Sad Hotel" is arguably one of 2013's most overlooked efforts. The trumpet-driven "Don't Wait Here For Me" is slow and funereal and has a classic veneer that calls to mind CSNY and The Byrds. A deeply poignant yarn about immigrants, "Don't Wait For Me Here" is proof positive that New American Farmers are a band worth revisiting.The first half of Brand New Day concludes with the ELO cover "Can't Get It Out of My Head," a spartan performance that features Zirbel's pedal steel, a violin interlude, slide guitar, piano and contributions from The Real Vocal String Quartet. To call it tremendous would be doing it a disservice.
The second half of the disc opens with the rousing country strut of "Faking the Divine," a song that feels rooted to times gone by and feels incredibly vintage. Buttressed by a trumpet flourish in the latter stages, "Faking the Divine" is an inviting way to open this second act. The band has admitted to having a penchant for clarity and nowhere is that more apparent than on the bare-bones brilliance of "Good and Sober," an ode to being level-headed and treasuring the moments in life sans alcohol. The slow-building and lush "Open Arms" rises on the wings of stormy guitars and a veneer that feels more akin to Pink Floyd than Patty Loveless. While it is decidedly askew on this roots-based effort, there's still something magical about each second.
Brand New Day concludes with the triumvirate of "Hypocrite," "How Do We Do It?," and "Sunday Market." The former is a rollicking ditty about complacency that at times feels forced and contrived. In short, it is the first time on Brand New Day, that New American Farmers are trying too hard. Ostensibly a statement song with a positive message, there's little about "Hypocrite" aside from its lyrics that's worth positive commentary. On the contrary, the stark piano ballad "How Do We Do It?" is nothing short of splendid. More a prayer than a pop song, "How Do We Do It?" is just another example of why New American Farmers are a band well worth remembering. Brand New Day concludes with the instrumental "Sunday Market," a track that features the unmistakable din of chickens squawking.
Even with the throwaway final track, there's something potent and promising about Brand New Day that set it apart from the rest of the Americana heap released this year. Equal parts surprising, celebratory and sensational, it has all the trappings of a band wise beyond its years. And maybe that's the rub. Knowles and Storto are born musicians with a flair for songwriting that is truly something to behold.