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Swarme of Beese Backwoods of My Mind 2022 Backwoods Modern Recordings BWM 1670
Out of the vibrant, diverse and fertile music community of Austin, Texas, comes BACKWOODS OF MY MIND, the full-length debut of indie-folk trio, Swarme of Beese.
“Lately, I’ve been knowin’ that this thing that’s been a-haunting me is something I should do, just done and said.” This lyric from album centerpiece, “Battleground,” sung in perfect harmony by bandleader/guitarist/main songwriter Stephen Canner and harmony-vocalist Lynne Adele, accompanied by violinist Stefan Keydel, could, very well, serve as the key to decoding and traversing this highly-rewarding excursion into the dark hollers of Appalachia. The album’s eight cuts weave tales of Gothic Americana populated with characters driven by superstitions, fears and the limitations of hands dealt. The poor girl who skins a rabbit to feed her starving family in the album’s title track is particularly haunting. She is visited by the dead creature in her unsettled dreams, ultimately succumbing to madness and creating an altar with its bones where she prays for absolution from her myriad sins.
Canner crafts masterful vignettes with interesting and unexpected twists throughout. “Guntown Mountain,” sung beautifully by Adele, and punctuated with mournful accompaniment by Keydel and Canner, is less about the oft-closed theme park in Cave City, Kentucky, and more like the backdrop for an ethereal English murder ballad.
BACKWOODS OF MY MIND is a cascade of deliberate minor key balladry that invites repeated listening. The words often burn long after they are sung, like the lingering visual impressions one sees after looking away from a bright object. For example, “Craving you like maggots crave the dead,” is simply how the narrator describes devotion in the lyrics to “Singing in the Dark.” Musically, BACKWOODS draws comparison to 90’s-era Kristen Hersh and the melodic sensibilities of vintage REM as well as the traditions of Appalachian folk.
The slightly-fermented soundscapes of BACKWOODS OF MY MIND ring with sincerity and authenticity. This is masterful storytelling performed by fully-formed troubadours at the peak of their craft. The nuanced Americana of Swarme of Beese is, in plain truth, no more haunting than the reality in which we currently reside.