Surprise, surprise. Another west-coast, indie-rock amalgamation of unshowered, folk-lovin’ hipsters. The adage for the aughts could be “Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be folkies…” if there were a grizzled and grayed trouveur around today worthy of carrying such a mantra. Fact is, the stereotype has preceded the music; if you’re carrying three or more of the following: doe-eyed lead singer, plaid button down shirts, band name that involves anything organic (including floral or fauna), two or more acoustic guitars, lengthy harmonica solos, fiercely loyal fans who heard about you on National Public Radio and who like to think of themselves as auditory trailblazers, or a cloud of cannabis resin that pre- and proceeds each of your shows… you’ll be pigeonholed.
Welcome to the business. For every Nirvana there’ll always be a Live, and the cycle of the Simon-says music profession continues. To this day, there seems to be only one true way to break through the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better musical trap. Don’t suck. Lucky for The Cave Singers, they’re pretty damn good.
Welcome Joy pulls no punches; it’s about as straight-forward of a folk-rock album as straightforward folk-rock albums come. Lead singer Pete Quirk’s vocals are full of thistles and briers, the guitars chug while percussion explodes. There’s nothing new under the sun, granted, but sometimes originality is all in the presentation. “Leap” will be your new favorite Gram Parsons song that Gram Parsons never wrote. It’s a sidewinding melody encased in giddy guitars and a delightfully tactful mouth harp. Half of the album, you’ll swear you’re listening to old Neil Young outtakes, such as the joyful tambourine shaker “Beach House” or the acoustic-tinged “VV”.
The album’s full of this kind of rock veracity, microwaved brothers of the denomination of tunes that took a whole generation to form; however, it’s the adamant sincerity of The Cave Singers’ intonations that turn parody into proficiency. One of the record’s most exciting tracks, “At The Cut”, is a song to raise tents and start revolutions with, at home just as much in a field full of late-’60s, forward-thinking hippies as it is on some poor college student’s Pandora playlist, and the ‘Singers make it seem effortless. Neither rock facsimile nor tribute, they’ve breathed something new into this old technique and completely enveloped it in their ambitious voice.
Perhaps it’s true that folk is the new punk. We may be witnessing the next incarnation of popular music, and soon, as Kings of Convenience so adeptly noted, quiet will be the new loud. If it takes a thousand cookie-cut MySpace folk-mongering bands to wade through before stumbling across an act like The Cave Singers, it’ll be worth it.