• Review

Album Review: Stick & Bindle Find Comfort in Melancholy on Lore & Laments

Somehow, and I’m not entirely sure how, I’ve found myself in a corner of the Cincy Music Scene that I wasn’t necessarily aware existed in any significant form. To have the good fortune to hear so much great music that’s coming from local artists - and as I’ve mentioned before - it’s still quite humbling to find something new to me personally. And, in most cases, it’s not just new, but it also happens to be really, really good.

Stick & Bindle is an incredible name for a Folk/American duo, just perfect. That it also encapsulates quite succinctly what it is the duo of Steve Covington and Anne Bangert have put together on their frankly stunning LP, Lore & Laments, is sort of beside the point. But it helps make the case for this being an album folks should be paying close attention to.

It should be said that my Folk, Americana, and Bluegrass bona fides are practically non-existent. I have had the incredible good fortune to hear some of what Cincinnati’s been up to in the form of the lovely and delightful Bluegrass Folk duo The Laurelys. And just last week I was witness to some of the area’s best singer-songwriters, some of whom would likely classify as Folk or Americana, at Noah Smith’s Crooner Circus when they took over Fountain Square.


Defined by a beautiful melancholy - a hallmark of expansive and expressive genres like Folk, Bluegrass, and American - Stick & Bindle take their time in letting Lore & Laments unwind. With the exception of album opener “Change Her Mind,” the comparatively breakneck-paced “Ol’ Poor Rickey” and the ever so slightly more upbeat dual vocals found on “Cover with the Moon,” the album revels in a quiet, sparsely instrumental, incredibly well-produced series of songs that feature either Covington or Bangert on vocals. Lots of plucky, wonderfully played and recorded guitar, and some fiddle to kick things off, the album really does rest, quite effortlessly, on Covington’s easygoing and conversational croon and Bangert’s twangy, Katherine Whalen-esque style.

“Little Secret” employs all of the various pieces that make the album as a whole both memorable and relistenable. “Song About a Song” features some of my favorite guitar work on the record, while “Main Road” lets Bangert quietly swagger and sway her way through a soulful, delightful track near the midway point of the album. “Drowning” is an introspective, pensive dissertation on having to stand witness, on the sidelines - between the fiddle and Bangert’s vocals and delivery, it’s hard to pick a favorite since they work so well together, in concert.

The more singer-songwriter angle of “One of These Days” is an interesting diversion from some of what’s come before, but it feels in no way out of place thanks to the clarity of Covington’s vocals and accompanying guitar work. A noticeable and likely deliberate decision, Bangert regularly provides backing vocals at key points in the tracks where Covington has taken the lead, but it’s rarely, if ever, done in the reverse. It is, honestly, brilliant songwriting. “Lonesome River” is where I heard a bit of Katherine Whalen in Bangert’s vocal performance, but always in the best way imaginable.

Of note - the moody, song out of time quality of instrumental album closer “Carriage House Lullaby” is a gorgeously simple way to end an album that spends almost its entire runtime being gorgeously simple. I’d happily listen to an album of songs just like it, though that would mean having to go without Covington and Bangert’s dynamic vocal work, so maybe not? It is a legitimate conundrum.

It takes genuine restraint and a clear sense of who and what you are as a songwriter, a duo, a band, or really any kind of artist, to know when to hold back, to know when to lean in, and to know and recognize what you’re good at and what works. Lore & Laments as an album? It just works. Each track is its own thing, and every one of them adds itself to a whole that is, on repeat listens, a genuinely lovely set of songs. Covington and Bangert as vocalist? An honestly perfect pairing. With their instruments? They sure as hell know what they’re doing.

This is a summer time sitting on your porch watching a storm roll in or maybe sitting out back with a fire going kind of album. So grab a digital copy of it for yourself here - you can get a vinyl copy of it, too, and I have to imagine it sounds damn good on a record player - then you can find some time to appreciate this one from some good speakers or your favorite headphones. I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.