Exposure: Southern Tenant Folk Union
- Malcolm Jack
- 24 October 2008
Southern Tenant Folk Union - Never Got The Best Of Me
Roots collective Southern Tenant Folk Union’s music – a by turns gloriously upbeat and stirringly melancholic mix of bluegrass, gospel, country, folk and pop, with nods to The Carter Family, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt – is as American as pumpkin pie. Yet, it’s the work of a bunch of Londoners, brought together by Belfast-born five-string banjo virtuoso Pat McGarvey.
STFU in your own words if you please sir.
We’re a six piece caught somewhere between old-time string band music, skiffle, bluegrass and indie (like Pavement maybe), whilst at the same time sounding like none of the above. There’s fiddle, banjo, mandolin, double bass, acoustic guitars, washboard and lots of harmony vocals.
Yet not a Yank between you?
No, but I played for over ten years in an American guy’s band (The Coal Porters, led by Sid Griffin) and the bands of others like Amy Rigby, Bob Neuwirth (Bob Dylan’s road manager in the 60s), Peter Case, etc. Something rubbed off on me and gave me the confidence to attempt to play a music form I loved whilst at the same time making sure I avoided the clichés of Brits with mid-Atlantic accents doing pastiche Americana.
Talk me into coming to the next STFU show.
People are always amazed at how energetic the up-tempo tunes are and how soulful the slower introspective songs sound. It’s still unusual to see a band that don’t hide behind drums or walls of volume, and can sing and play great original songs in an emotionally engaging manner whilst obviously having a good time doing it.
Brel, Glasgow, Mon 27 Oct; Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, Tue 28 Oct.