The Wynntown Marshals: The Long Haul – album review (Wynntown Recordings)
The Long Haul is the follow-up album to the critically acclaimed Westerner from Edinburgh-based Americana merchants Wynntown Marshals, formerly The Sundowns for those of you with longer memories.
Following some line-up changes, The Marshals have crafted a quite beautiful piece of contemporary rock.
The Long Haul is something of a love-letter to the good ol’ US of A but don’t mistake this for any kind of homage; sure, they take cues from Wilco, Ryan Adams and The Jayhawks but this is an album with enough Scottish heart to transcend mere copy.
The opening track, Driveaway, is very much indicative of what’s to come; jangling, twanging guitars, Keith Benzie’s uplifting vocals and a melody that’s as soaring as it is gorgeous. Together this creates a weary, wind-in-the-hair road anthem in the making. The line in which Benzie sings “Life In The Fast Lane was playin’ on the radio” is a lovely, chest-swelling moment and I’ll admit it actually gave me goosebumps, old romantic that I am. The song itself is a whip-smart tale of a couples road trip across the desert and has a certain tongue-in-cheek-ness that lifts it above mere Two Lane Blacktop grandstanding.
American music (and the idea of America) has always been something that Scots bands have had a fondness for. Who knows if it’s the lure and longing for something palpable across the Atlantic or merely parents and grandparents record collections. Whatever, The Wynntown Marshals have taken the template of roots music and crafted an album that’s world-weary and innocent in equal measures.
Curtain Call is a tour de force of songwriting; Benzie’s lyric is an intriguing tale of some unnamed Victorian illusionist contemplating his impending demise amid an opiated haze. “The misdirection and the switch took you away” sings Benzie, seemingly describing some pistol-trick-gone-wrong. It’s a song that begs repeated listening and the swooning strings sit perfectly amidst Ian Sloan’s melody.
The tempo is picked up again on North Atlantic Soul which, while having a little of the FM AOR radio about its Big Star jangle, has some sweet twists and turns and heralds bass man Murdoch McLeod as something of a neat songwriter himself.
The Submariner again has some clever lyrical tricks amongst its 12 string flourishes and telecaster twang. This is a band unafraid of taking their influences and giving them a good kicking and the sheer joy and what-the-hell attitude of the albums energetic pulse is almost touchable.
The Wynntown Marshals have created an album that’s as good as anything I’ve heard thus far this year and The Long Haul is definitely no Americana / alt. country niche piece. Sometimes music should just be like this; fearless, righteous and heart-liftingly simple. The Wynntown Marshals have certainly delivered.
All words by Joe Whyte. More writing by Joe on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.