On their way to Memphis

The Lomax mine the South, and the past, on their debut disc
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  February 11, 2009

090213_beedle_main
RACING ISN'T THEIR THING: The Lomax are more laid back.
Their name sort of gives them away. Once you realize the Lomax have named themselves after the legendary John and Alan Lomax, who brought many of us what we know about Southern traditional American music, you can quickly guess what they might sound like: a little bit cowboy, a bit folksy, a tad bluesy (but some other stuff I'll get to later). John Lomax gave us Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, which brought songs like "Home on the Range" to the public consciousness. With son Alan he later collected a huge archive of field recordings that, most famously, brought Lead Belly (who came back into the 1990s pop consciousness thanks to Nirvana's cover of his "In the Pines" on their Unplugged disc) out of a prison and into fashionable 1930s parlors.

These guys legitimized country music, American music, before it was co-opted and ruined (did you hear that garbage on Grammys this weekend? Well, of course not. Only losers actually watch the Grammys). The cowboy poets still haven't quite gotten their due, but somehow Woody Guthrie seems a little more right every day, doesn't he? And I think it's interesting that the Lomax chose to categorize themselves as "Country" on iTunes. Because they're not really country. Except when they are.

Really, to judge by their debut full-length, The Lomax Album, they're a pop band — draped in twangy electric guitars and, once, a banjo, sure, but a pop band nonetheless.

This is partly because principal singer and songwriter Andy Ellis just doesn't have a bit of Southern drawl in him. If anything, his voice is built for ironic indie rock, but also reminds of British Invasion pop-rock with his clean and generally tenor delivery. He doesn't growl or swagger so much as bop and sometimes lounge, and this lends a recurring contrast to the Lomax's songs that makes their sound memorable and unique. It's a nod to dueling traditions, both of them uniquely American, even if they've been stolen and coerced from Africa and the British Isles.

I mean, what country singer would reference "what Johnny Marr's guitar did on records with Morrissey"? What country singer would lead a song with, "You can call me Ishmael"? For whatever reason, I find this kind of genre-bending pretty interesting. Rather than make a genre album — a Texas swing disc, or a rockabilly vamp — the Lomax have made a traditional sound their own, tugging it not quite into the current day, but at least a few years later than its hey-day.

Because, of course, Johnny Marr hasn't played with Morrissey for more than 20 years, and do any kids nowadays spend all day "listening to the radio, and leafing through the latest Rolling Stone"? Does anyone "fine-tune the FM dial"? Maybe they do in Lewiston or Louisville, places inhabited by the Lomax's timeless characters, who are desperate to escape their hometowns and desperate to find a home at the same time.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Phosphorescent | Here’s To Taking It Easy, The Big Hurt: A big country lesbian pissing match, Voice of the County, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Country Music,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SAM PFEIFLE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FIRST SECOND COMING  |  August 22, 2014
    Hey, look, I Discovered a Planet
  •   THE CRUNK WITCH THAT THEY ARE  |  August 14, 2014
    Three albums in, Crunk Witch are now far more than novelty. The all-digital, husband-wife duo of Brandon Miles and Hannah Collen have created enough material at this point to establish a clear method behind what can sometimes seem like madness.  
  •   FIRE ON FIRE  |  August 07, 2014
    From the varying deliveries and styles through the three fully instrumental tracks, there’s a lot to consider in Pyronauts , with equal attractions in playing it loud in the car with the windows down and in the headphones.
  •   HIP HOP SUMMER  |  July 31, 2014
    For pure output, it’s hard to argue Portland is anything but a hip hop city.
  •   SEVEN-MAN ARMY  |  July 24, 2014
    Lately, it’s been open season on “Wagon Wheel,” which has become the acoustic musician’s “Freebird,” one of the very few songs that people actually know well enough to find it funny to request.

 See all articles by: SAM PFEIFLE