July 23, 2024

The Americans – “I’ll Be Yours”: A potted history of American popular stylings

LOOSE MUSIC     7th July 2017

Of course it’s the lead vocals but I’m reminded of John Fogerty’s brand of Americana and direct emotions of Creedence Clearwater Revival with the first track. I quickly learn that Patrick Ferris has a lot more to his repertoire and the band have a slew of styles at their elbows. There is, too, a sense of the great American tradition – the Springsteen, the Waits, the Jack White and so on in the blend of fuzz-edged lead guitar, boxy drums and straight-forward paddling rhythms.

The Americans (the band, not the nation) have a love of the vintage and led the recording process on BBC4’s recent documentary where 1920’s American recording techniques were revisited. This is somewhat more up to date and we can hear a clear line of feeling running from the guitar. You see; they started out as a revivalist band, favouring pre-war country and blues. The hoarse blues still win through but the package is much more nuanced and has drawn in a line of more recent influences. The frontman, upright bassist and guitarist dug deep into arcana, learnt banjo, fiddle and mandolin and practised the old songs so that they could write new ‘old’ songs. Somehow they also travelled back to the present day and wound up representing the history of American people’s music, up to the speedy rock and roll of Hooky (the song, not the grumpy Mancunian bass player). Electric guitar was added to mandolin and the rest is (or rather isn’t) history.

I’ll Be Yours switches from a sweet, sad tone to falsetto and, backed by mandolins, rises to an insistent and heartfelt stream of emotion. Harbor Lane is heartfelt old-timey longing, coloured with electric guitar played as a banjo might have been, but, as is the way, with more feeling (don’t hate me, banjo lovers). Long Way Home is proper old rock and roll, dolled up with girly backing chorus and horns. It rocks. The closer, Daphne, is an old-timey waltz, with Patrick Ferris again taking his vibrato into a picture on the wall of a hotel somewhere.

The album sits in a niche of its own, clearly drawing from a venerable well, but playing it timelessly.


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