Sometimes, people get a little upset when they heard the the word “folk rock” pop up, especially when it can be used so loosely. They may either think of artists today who try to base their music off of artists such as Bob Dylan during his work in the mid 60’s through his early 70’s or through a current band like ‘Mumford & Sons’ who pretty much have the same mandolin, banjo, bass and acoustic setup, paired with a background instrument like a keyboard to help in assisting pitch the tone of a sound that seems constant through an album.
If this is how you may feel, but you STILL feel like you could get into folk-based group music, I would recommend the band ‘Soft Cat’. This is a band that formed in 2009. On their band camp page, ‘Soft Cat’ is described as a “chamber-folk ensemble” with, “a rotating cast of collaborative musicians from Baltimore, MD“.
*It is important to note that, although I do have a lot to wrote about this particular artist, I was only about to find and listen to their 2015 album, “All Energy Will Rise”.
At this point you may be asking yourself, “What is so special about something like this?” Well, one things that can stick out to prospective listeners is that, according to their bandcamp page, they have LITERALLY 13 musicians with varying instruments in their band. So lack of diversity in instrumental sound is not something I’d consider a problem when listening to ‘Soft Cat’.
Many of these instruments featured in ‘Soft Cat’ are ones that most would come to expect in any folk band, such as a classical guitar, violin, and a bass. But, the numerous amount of extended members that rotate themselves, as well as their varying instruments, give diversity to a music genre that perhaps wouldn’t be available without a plethora of differing instruments such as these. For example, in addition to instruments like the guitar, violin, bass and keyboards that they already have in their music, ‘Soft Cat’ also features a lap steel guitar, vibraphones, flugelhorn, and a saxophone! Pretty neat, right?
Many of their songs on their album, “All Energy Will Rise” is heavily influenced by a foundational sound of the pleasant-sounding Spanish classical guitar. In fact, for the first 8 songs off their album, “All Energy Will Rise”, one can hear the classic guitar either start out or isolate it’s track from the rest of the instruments.
An example of this can be heard in their song, ‘Somebody’, which features the classic guitar starting the song out by itself for the first 20 seconds until it is accompanied by an equally soft-sounding violin, whose rhythm parallels that of the guitar.
It’s not until the song, “A Disturbance on the Surface of a Body of Water”, (which actually sounds like an classical guitar that just had an electric amp put though it with a distortion pedal) where I don’t hear this classically sounding instrument. Regardless, this electric-acoustic substitute sounds awesome, especially when it’s the only instrument featured in the song, accompanied by two different vocal tracks!
An example of these instruments coming together is in their song, “All Energy Will Rise”. Just in the intro of the song (about 45 seconds long), you can hear that same electric/acoustic guitar from their track mentioned above, followed by a combined sound of a piano and a violin with matching chords. It’s not something I can say I’ve gotten to hear too many times, especially with bands!
This is than followed by an electric guitar and then 2 trumpets. This actually brings me to my final point about why many I think many people would enjoy giving this folk band a listen; ‘Soft Cat’ is a band that is able to add many instruments into practically any given song without going overboard. In other words, they don’t have some instrument tracks drown out those of other instrument tracks because of their natural tone/volume. An example of this would be a keyboard vs a drum set.
*Note: Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a photo of the band that I could share/link to this post.