Souled American

Fe

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Short for 'feel,' Fe introduced Souled American to the world with what in the end turned out to be their biggest commercial success - and even that was fairly minor in the US indie scene of the time. In terms of quality, though, the quartet were onto something that few bands who followed afterwards - Uncle Tupelo, the Palace Brothers and its innumerable spinoffs, Lambchop, just about the whole No Depression scene of the nineties - could approach. "Notes Campfire," which would provide the title of the sixth Souled American album a decade later, sets the country part of the band's aesthetic in place. There's a deep twang in the guitars and vocals both, but Adducci's stuttering bass suggests something else is afoot, which Fe then proceeded to prove in spades. Whether the deceptively tight r'n'b groove underpinning "Field & Stream" or the lovely acoustic chimes on a version of the traditional "Fisher's Hornpipe," Fe shows the foursome drawing any number of strands together to create a new sound that doesn't feel like a forced fusion. Crigoroff's singing maintains heartfelt intensity throughout, blessedly free of the smoothed-out affectations Nashville's end of the century stars favored, while his and Tuma's guitar work is simply wonderful. Barnard's drumming and Adducci's basswork are incredibly supple, able to traverse the paths from dub to deep country effortlessly. The slight but still effective post-punk edge the group includes lends a further stark intensity to their work - consider the social critique of "Make Me Laugh Make Me Cry," with Adducci's slashing, halfway-to-New Order bass and a deep space in the recording that transforms reggae inspirations into something chillier. Other standouts on this strong album include the powerful electric lope of "Magic Bullets" and the equally strong instrumental voodoo of "True Swamp Too."

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