Pop folk is not a terribly crowded realm but it could use more releases like this one and perhaps inform the rest of the pop realm as to what constitutes good hooks and melodies. With the spate of truly mediocre pop CDs I've reviewed over the last year or so, Straw Dogs might even want to conduct a Learning Annex class in the mode's finer points and get some of their brethren jump-started.
There are elements of Peter & Gordon here, as well as an earthier laid back Hall & Oates, a faint touch of Long Ryders, and a whisker or two of Rain Parade, but basically it's folk pop and sparkles with the introspection of the former and the vivacity of the latter. Throw on Fire Outside or Something More and you get a cross between the Eagles, Iain Matthews, and Michael Tomlinson. The root of the Straw Dogs is the duet of Dave von Beck and Darren Smith plying guitars, piano, and vocals, but they chose a great backing band along with session players, everyone opening the sound up, ushering in more worldly elements.
Fallow and one or two other songs rock out but on a soft wave not far from their companions. Dan Tyak's pedal steel is extremely attractive and airily luxuriant, bringing down afternoon skies to settle into a number of compositions (Numbers is a great example), filling them up with a coruscating golden light. Love and then Hope boasts a dozen cuts never failing to bolster one another, crossing borders between familiar genres yet making them new in the subtlest ways.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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