“I stand here with you / Look at all we been through” reminisce Scythian in “Best Friend Song,” one of the thirteen tracks found in their new album Roots & Stones out everywhere quality indie folk-rock is sold and streamed this winter. These words sting with a lot more truth than one would expect the verses of an album deep cut ever could, and they perhaps summarize the tone of Roots & Stones better than any other pair of verses here do. Scythian have been down a crazy road in the last decade and a half, and once again they’re back in the spotlight with some of the most intriguing sounds of American you’re going to hear this season.
The beat behind “Duffy’s Cut,” “Sweet Maryanne” and “Virginia” manages to make the understated tensions in this trio of tracks all the stronger than it already would have been, and when taking into account just how often a minute detail like this impacts the narrative of Roots & Stones, this is the most intricate work in the Scythian discography. There’s no angle of their sound they aren’t willing to exploit if it means advancing a heartfelt emotion unto the listener, and that’s more than obvious when listening to this record.
“Galway City” isn’t quite as muscular in melody as “Men of the North,” “Je Suis Coureur Des Bois” or “The Bruce” are, but there’s something really enchanting about how diverse the physicality of this LP is. There’s no telling the size or extent of the poetic lashings that tend to come with every unforgettable moment this record has to offer, but even better than that, everything has been mixed as to keep an evenhanded feel no matter what song we’re listening to. Technicalities are everything to millennial audiences, but I get the feeling this band already knows that.
You’ve really got to wonder just how many of the songs included in Roots & Stones were conceived in the midst of a loose jam as opposed to a traditional writing session, mostly because of how freeform the hooks in “The Motherland,” “Sail Away Johnny” and “The Fight” tend to be. There’s not a doubt in my mind that all of this material would sound even more incredible in a live setting, where the players could really experiment with the start and finishing points of every song as to suit the mood of the crowd – and moreover, themselves.
Americana has been experiencing quite the profound revival in the United States and abroad over the last three years, but if you want my honest opinion, Scythian can be credited with helping to spark the trend well before it ever got going. This is a band that have been combining influences from across the American landscape for a while now, but in Roots & Stones they make it known what the real bread and butter of their sound is above all else. I’m spellbound by their story, and I think other critics and particular listeners out there will be, too.
by Bethany Page