If you’re feeling adventurous and want to journey a little farther afield than the familiar sounds of country, but still want something that remains akin in spirit to the country roots you so love, one direction you can point your snout is towards the Jim James and My Morning Jackets, and M. Wards of the world. Nobody would ever accuse them of being straight-laced country, but their embracing of folk and country modes, and even featuring a little steel guitar here and there gives you just enough familiarity to latch onto so they can ultimately take you somewhere new.
Lord Huron originally from Michigan fits in that category as well. Helmed primarily by Ben Schneider, the band has launched some monster hits in the indie rock world with their dreamy, sparse, and airy sound. You may have never heard it, but their song “The Night We Met” has now gone triple Platinum. Kind of like the Avett Brothers, they’re a big band barely anyone’s heard of.
Strolling through Lord Huron’s recorded output, you may come across a few tracks you could fairly accuse of perhaps being “indie folk,” but that’s about as far as the characterizations might go into the roots realm. But that’s not the case with their new album Long Lost. Diving deep into retro influences, quite a few of the tracks sound like nothing short of classic country run through a spacial filter, while other tracks work in early-era Memphis roots rock sounds.
Add in a bit of mod and surf tones not to too far from the sound of The Sadies that old souls are bound to find quite pleasing to the ear, and Long Lost is fair to label as 50’s and 60’s-inspired Americana, and is much more rootsy and country than much of what is labeled Americana these day that’s trulyanimals of indie rock.
A conceptualized work with interludes and underlying themes, Lord Huron sucks the country audience in from the start with its Ennio Morricone-inspired tones, and Countrypolitan strings and choruses. The first song “Mine Forever” feels like it was pulled straight from a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “Love Me Like You Used To” could be slipped right into the catalog of Jim Reeves unnoticed. Just the guitar tone alone in “Meet Me in the City” tells you that you’re in the right place as a country fan.
Even the cover art of Long Lost of some hepcat wearing a bolo tie, 50’s-style smoker’s jacket, and holding a hollow body Gretsch guitar helps to visualize the era this album looks to evoke. As the album proceeds, things turn a bit more towards the mod and early rock sounds as opposed to rootsy country like on the sleepwalking “I Lied” with Allison Ponthier. By the time you get to “What Do It Mean,” you’re beginning to veer into Phil Specter territory.
It’s the utilization of space that has worked to Lord Huron’s advantage over the last nearly 10 years. But on Long Lost, they also add the much deeper dimension of time, sending you not just up, but also away, facilitating that fully immersive experience only the best of music can, carrying you somewhere decidedly detached from the mundanity of modern life, and away from the close proximity of daily cares. It’s a bubble bath, or deep sauna for the soul.
Granted, this spell won’t work on the souls of everyone. Even some highly receptive to this type of retro music will find some of the sameness, slowness, and extended play of Long Lost which concludes in a 14-minute epic as too much to hold the attention. Some may just want a bit more meat and potatoes. There are some ebbs in Long Lost‘s 16 tracks that includes the intros and interludes. And even though the songwriting and instrumentation are admirable, they’re not the selling points here. This music is style and ambiance over everything else.
The encroachment of indie rock into the Americana market is almost as alarming as hip-hop into country. But an effort like this by Lord Huron should be strongly encouraged from the way it revitalizes classic roots tones and modes, and delivers them so endearingly to a wider audience. From rockabilly cats, to classic cowboy and Western types, to American roots enthusiasts, and to the indie rockers more native to the Lord Huron audience, Long Lost ingratiates itself by offering a treatise on the beauty of classic American music.
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