The most surprising thing about Frontier Folk Nebraska is that they, sincerely, continue to surprise me.
It would be easy to coast on past accomplishments - a great record, a phenomenal live album, regular touring in places where they actually know your name. In fact, they’ve just returned, having come back from a stint to and from South By Southwest. So it was a genuine and pleasant surprise to find myself listening to a new, energetic and quintessential release from a band that continues to refine a sound that, by all accounts, really doesn’t need much refinement.
Rock ‘N Roll could be a paint by numbers experience. In some cases, it most definitely is. But Frontier Folk Nebraska continues to buck the trend by creating well-grounded, but sonically diverse pure Rock ‘N Roll, and Warpig, a 4 song EP they’re releasing digitally and on cassette is essentially the sonic distillation of the car on the front cover. It could be old, it could be rusty, but it’s been well taken care of and maintained, and it still drives like a dream. Maybe even better than when it was new.
Each track offers a different take on a sound that Frontier Folk Nebraska both embraces and makes their own: Classic Rock, but with backbone, substance. What gets lost in describing something as simply Rock ‘N Roll, though, is how complex and varied any one band can be, and Warpig is a classic example of just that. Vocalist and guitarist Michael Hensley is in top form here, with opening track “Girls Like Wine” starting with a burst of summer freedom (if one were to put that sensation in song form) before launching into energetic guitar solos. Before we get to the guitar work, it’s worth noting how tight this band sounds while still, somehow, maintaining their Garage Rock shagginess. This, I think, is in large part due to Mark Becknell’s persistent and fun rhythm on drums and Matt McCormick’s stellar bass work. Between the two, they anchor this band in a way that’s more and more evident as they release material.
Just as much as Hensley’s vocals soar, guitarist Travis Talbert continues to bring character and verve to each arrangement and create genuine highlights on an album that, really, is full of them. By the time you get to the jangly, almost dancey final track, “Cut You Loose,” you’ve already run the gamut of tempo and emotion. The sheer joy and unbridled excitement of “Cut You Loose” is a not so gentle reminder that this is a band still absolutely full of surprises - and enjoying letting each one of them loose on unsuspecting listeners.
If you want to hear tracks from Warpig live, you’re in luck. Catch them this Saturday, March 25, at Southgate House Revival for their release show, denim jacket not required, but appreciated. Oh, and be sure to grab a cassette while you’re there. Get your summer started now.