Stick in the Wheel – Follow Them True
Follow Them True isn't a record that allows you to get comfortable, it's always trying new things, trying to wake you from your lethargy as a listener
Stick in the Wheel are everything people think is absent from folk music, which in turn has helped make them one of the folk scene's most exciting bands. This follow up to 2015's From Here has as much in common with punk, trance, and post-rock as it does with traditional folk, the beauty being in the blurred lines between these seemingly foreign genres.
The heavier tracks are the album's most interesting moments, allowing for singer Nicola Kearey to stomp out her vocals with extreme force. The opener Over Again begins with a tetchy, tense guitar line, that quickly builds into a rousing, powerful chorus. On the title track, Follow Them True, Kearey's voice gets auto-tuned to the hilt, damn near bursting at the seams – a cool, sharp production choice that speaks to the unique way in which the band approach these songs.
Indeed, Kearey's voice shapeshifts a few times across the course of the album, sometimes high up in mix, sometimes strange and ghost-like. It's used as an instrument in and of itself, woven in and out of drones, thudding percussion, and acoustic instruments that have been reshaped into something else – on 100,000 Years, it sounds eerie and disquieting, uncomfortable almost. That makes sense though, this isn't a record that allows you to get comfortable, it's always trying new things, trying to wake you from your lethargy as a listener.
This isn't to say that Stick in the Wheel can't play it straight. One of the album's finest moments is exactly that, funnily enough, on Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, a kind of morality story about a vagrant's daughter who goes to London to seek a better life. It's played like a trad ballad, a simple but effective arrangement, but emboldened by the more experimental fare that's come before it, it manages to stand out.
Listen to: Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, 100,000 Years, Over Again