taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment


The Last Night of the Revels

In all seriousness, sometimes contemporary folk and stringband music can take itself too seriously. One album after another that can be described as “gorgeous” or “moving” eventually deadens the senses to all of it. Then, something like The Last Night of the Revels, the second album from Seth Martin’s roots-grass trio Sinful Savage Tigers, comes along and reminds that there is a place for humor or sly references among beautiful balladry. The Last Night of the Revels is a slight change in direction from the debut album Rain Is the Soup of the Dogs In Heaven; some of the bluegrass fastidiousness has been instilled with catchier pop sensibilities. Lyrically, you’d be hard-pressed to find a smarter, more clever record to come out of that area this year. There’s nary a Gen-Xer who wouldn’t look at the title of opener “Chocolate Cake” and immediately recall a bit from Bill Cosby’s enduring standup film Himself, but when Martin quotes that very line (“Dad is great/ he give us the chocolate cake”), it’s a bit of meta-nostalgia that really sells the genuineness of the lost-soul archetype at the song’s center. Even the album’s minutia carries with it strange familiarities. He sounds eerily like Ryan Adams on Heartbreaker when he delivers the one-two-three at the beginning of “How and Why Blues,” a song itself full of great, deadpan one-liners. Martin has found himself some fantastic accompaniment for this one, bringing on the Brand New Life bassist Seth Barden to join Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin as the band’s core. A who’s-who of the Triangle’s music scene also fills out the album’s elegant arrangements, most notably of which is Phil Cook of Megafaun lending his band’s trademark harmonies and some sleepy dobro to “Fastest On the Road.” It’s easy to call The Last Night of the Revels a “gorgeous” album, and it certainly is, but it’s also so much more than that.