With the current level of increased interest in acoustic roots music, bluegrass and old time music it's a good time to take stock of one of the string band scene's longer lasting outfits as they offer up a new set of songs. The Foghorn Stringband came out of the mostly indie rock Portland, Ore. scene eight albums ago and have inspired everyone from The Decemberists to a generation of young old timers ever since.
The best thing about old time music is also potentially the worst; it doesn't change much when done in a traditional manner; Foghorn Stringband play the same variations on the same tunes a thousand known and unknown string bands have played before them. To anyone unfamiliar with 'real' old-time music, however, what captivates a listener is inevitably the energy and enthusiasm of the performance. Technique is secondary, as most of the strumming and fiddling is almost perfunctory on a song such as "Henry Lee." The story, however, is a classic tale that's riveting when sung in the nasal twang of the Foghorn Stringband.
If there is any innovation here, it may be the wealth of material covered that a typical regional or local act might not have had exposure to in the early days of the last century. From the Cajun sounds of "Lost Gal" to Alice Gerrard's "Mining Camp Blues" and an a capella "What Will We Do?," the band manages to inject some variety into the usual lineup of fiddle tunes and traditional ballads. Maybe that's the band's contribution to the never-changing scene: making old time new again.