This is an album four years in the making and recorded by three guys, all of whom have come out of different musical backgrounds, but who’ve combined their talents to put together an album very different from their norm. Brian Langan is a veteran of the indie scene in Philly, playing in bands like The Sw!ms and Needlepoints, whereas RJ Gilligan (Frost) played in rock bands like Dark Web. They began working on songs they’d written in the folk tradition, while realising they had no outlet for it in their music with the bands they played in. Enter Nam Wayne (Wane) and a new musical collaboration began, with the three musicians giving us their take on acid-psych-folk rock for the 21st century. The result is an album which deserves to be heard far more widely than I suspect it will be.
Given their respective pedigrees then, and their day jobs, it’d be fascinating to know where these guys came up with this sound, as there’s nothing in any of their backgrounds to suggest any connection to UK ‘psych’-influenced folk but, whatever, they’ve come up with an album which, released anytime between 1968-1974, would have seen Joe Boyd signing them to Witchseason and bracketing them with similar other artists of the time, like Comus, when folk was moving away from the purity envisaged by Cecil Sharp, and embracing the spirit of the psychedelic age – the result being acid-folk, with its folky, trippy fantasy world, which saw artists experimenting with different instruments and messages, retaining the acoustic basis of folk while adding elements of psych to the mix, creating some exciting music along the way. This had been the approach taken by Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina on her 1991 album, Songs From The Acid Folk, incorporating elements of psychedelia with acoustic folk. Similarly with Skip Spence, whose Oar was another venture into acid-folk.
The sixties influences on display here are undeniable. Songs like Falcon Ridge and the paeon to nature which is Learn The Name Of The Plants – with such trippy lyrics as ‘for the questions with no answers, you can ask the summer grass’ – are pure 1967 Donovan and would easily fit onto his Gift From A Flower To A Garden album. Frozen Shell, Libra Moon and Everwing, the story of a cursed bird, are all at the acid-folk end of the spectrum, bringing bands like Spirogyra to mind, and the Alchemist Of Hazy Row sees the musicians channelling their inner Incredible String Band to good effect. She Walks Alone tells of a lady who finds herself ‘trapped between life and a dream’, while the gorgeous Diomyria tugs at the heartstrings with its mournful violin and acoustic guitar, and The Weaver & the Traveller, with its mystical lyrics and religious overtones about the creation of the universe, is the track of the album.
Langan, Frost and Wane deserve credit for coming up with a US take on what was a vibrant late sixties / early seventies UK scene. The songs are good, the instrumentation is first rate and they’ve captured the essence of the times superbly. It’d be nice to think this isn’t just a one-off and they have more where this came from, as the whole album is a sheer delight.