Album Review: The Moaners – “Nocturnal” – (Holidays for Quince Records)

Album Reviews, Features, Music — By on October 4, 2010 8:30 pm

By Melissa Haklitch

Embodying their Southern geography, The Moaners’ third release Nocturnal captures the loveliness that is bluegrass, while adding a certain element of garage rock and whimsy. Nocturnal ranges across the spectrum of many genres within its ten tracks.

Having been previously compared to The White Stripes, The Moaners maintain their two-person ensemble of Melissa Swingle and Laura King, previously of Trailer Bride and Grand National, respectively. King’s off-beat tempo drumming when paired with Swingle’s vocals creates a surprisingly relaxed listening experience. Their musical arrangement offers an inventive take on traditional American bluegrass, folk, and garage rock styles. Each track is mature in its composition and gracefully executed.

Swingle’s vocals are pleasant and quaint on certain tracks like “Little Man” and “Barbarian in China”, but powerful and hypnotic on “Cowboy Bob” and “Ramblin”. The South Carolina-based band’s cover of “Moonshiner” does its Irish pub origin justice and adds a contemporary sentiment that is lacking in other versions of the tune.

If all that weren’t enough, Earl Poole Ball, long-time member of Johnny Cash’s band who famously graced the piano bench on The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, flew in from Austin to Durham, NC to track piano for the Nocturnal sessions.

When first sampling Nocturnal, I was in love with the inventive banter between instruments and vocals. The melodies spoke to me in a way a new album hasn’t in a while. There was a mystique about it, a furtiveness that is only made apparent after several listens to the tracks in their entirety. After a few days, I found myself humming the tunes and singing the choruses, unexpectedly.

This is a great album that will make you want to either hit the road, CD in hand, to explore the bits of still uninhabited American landscape, or read The Sound and the Fury, with Nocturnal playing softly in the background. It will remind you of the warm, sultry climate of the South on an evening of an Indian Summer day; sweet tea and all.

The Moaners have announced new fall national tour dates that begin on Halloween with Team Love Records’ David Dondero.

10.31.10 – Gainesville, FL – Fest 9
11.01.10 – Pensacola, FL – Sluggo’s
11.02.10 – Baton Rouge, LA – Red Star Bar
11.03.10 – Hattiesburg, MS – Thirsty Hippo
11.04.10 – Frisco, TX – Lochrann’s Irish Pub
11.06.10 – El Paso, TX – Black Market
11.07.10 – Phoenix, AZ – The Trunk Space
11.08.10 – San Diego, CA – Casbah
11.12.10 – San Francisco, CA – The Makeout Room
11.15.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lougne
11.16.10 – Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
11.17.10 – Spokane, WA – Empyrean
11.18.10 – Bozeman, MT – Filling Station
11.19.10 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
11.20.10 – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
11.22.10 – Chicago, IL – Shuba’s

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