Back a bit before we typed this sentence, Jeffery Armstreet over at Magnolia Red asked us to brave the cannibal-infested jungles between Houston and his studio/label in Magnolia to come do some listening of his latest project. Seriously, it is like driving to another country where the exports are banjos, chickens and smiles.
Initially we declined, what with gas at the current price and not owning a machete, but he tempted us with a chance to hear the eagerly awaited second album from Shellee Coley.
Though we did get a chance to hear an early cut of Coley, and it does stomp colon deep enough to strike oil, the purpose of the visit was to introduce us to Mason Lankford of the Folk Family Revival and their debut album, Unfolding.
We'd been avoiding the project, despite the fact that Magnolia Red rarely sends us anything but jaw-dropping awesomeness. We usually change the subject when the word "folk" appears in conversation, unless it's preceded by the word "neo," and the word "revival" makes us painfully aware of how much we're looking forward to going to hell.
Well, the unborn chickens are on our face because the music that Lankford has so casually let loose upon the unsuspecting eardrums of the people is simply too great to be real. Folk Family Revival does indeed some up the sound nicely. The four Lankford brothers channel Dylan, Petty, Cash, and most of all their own amazing brand of... whatever it is.
The depth of the songs on Unfolding is just unbelievable, especially coming from a songwriter who hasn't even crawled out of his teens yet. Roadsongs, heartbreaks, and unflinching look at popular religion make up the lyrical content buoyed upon a combination of catchy modern pop production and pure Appalachian style country. And while the music is genius, it is as a lyricist that Lankford truly excels.
Case in point, just from listening to the album on the way back home the opening line of 'Chasing a Rabbit" helped birth an entirely new column here at Rocks Off. Lankford throws out bit of brilliant verse like he's feeding bread to pigeons. The song's furious pace of Revelation-like attack on commercial hellfire and brimstone is full of lines like "the bank of Christopher's Columbus' wasteland," a phrase we still think should have been the album's title.
Or take one of Unfolding's love songs, like "Fallin'." Almost every single sung bit of sonic prose is worthy to be held up as poetry, but we're a particular fan of "You can break the ropes/ But you can't break the spell/ You can have high hopes, but you're still going to fail." In the end, every time you turn around the Folk Family Revival hits you with another undeniable bit of hard truth and soft caress that leaves you raw and clean as a freshly baptized baby.
Yet another incredible release from Magnolia Red and fast on its way to our personal Top 10, Unfolding promises some truly brilliant things from Folk Family Revival. We can't wait to hear more.
We had a chance to talk to Mason Lankford via the magic of the Internet. Continue to Page 2 to read.
Rocks Off: For someone who is only 19 the songs you do seem more like the reflections of a much older person. Where do you pick up the experiences that inspires the songs?
Mason Lankford: Since I was very young, maybe eight years old, I have been surrounded by people who are much older then me most of them were pastors or teachers of all sorts of different theologies. We would have debated about our beliefs and disbeliefs when I was only 12 years old and had first started writing. They listened to me as if I was of there age and maturity as if I had gone through the same schooling as them.
The truth is I haven't had much schooling at all. My inspiration comes from something much older then all of us. I have never felt young even growing up my friends were much older then me. I still don't have as many friends my age as I do older friend. I don't see myself as a young person so I don't write like one or act like one.
RO: The album sometimes feels like a tug of war between your personal interpretation of religion and other people's interpretations? What is it about popular Christianity that bothers you enough to right a song like "Chasing a Rabbit" or "Ye of Little Faith."
ML: You can't live on this earth and expect your inspiration be purely your inspiration. Same with "religion." I don't actually have a religion. Just a relationship with a higher force. A life and a love that people have branded as God. But here in reality. It or He doesn't really have a name we just call him God.
But because I believe in him and talk with him you think I'm religious or a Christian. The truth is I am not a Christian. Christian mean like Christ and I am in no way like Christ. However I make a point of taking time out of every day to spend time with my creator and he shows me things that I can't explain with a human language. Things that I have to explain as storms or purple umbrella tattoos or paper ships or mountains.
The reason I seem torn is because I'm trying to make my experiences understandable to a wide range of closed minded individuals.
RO: Songs like "Have a Nice Life" and "Shade from the Storm"... are they all about the same girl?
ML: No infect "Shade" isn't even about a girl. It's probably my most meaningful song as far as the situation it's written about. But I can see where you would get that idea. Let me help you. Change the line "Baby don't you worry" in the first verse to. "You don't have to worry." It some how was changed in the studio and when you're creating with a lot of people sometimes you have to change one line that will change a whole song. But it's a cool little decoder.
RO: What is it like being a musician in a city the size of Houston after being from a town so small only one computer has internet?
ML: You're thinking of my father's home town Seneca MO. I spent a lot of time there but I'm from Bartlesville Oklahoma. However we did live way out in the country on top of a hill overlooking Bar-Dew Lake. Our back yard was 2500 acre ranch.
With nobody around my brothers and I spent all day everyday exploring the woods. We moved here when I was seven. I love it here, but it's hard to remove a place like that from your heart. I'll live there again. Anyway being a musician here in Houston is something I just grew into doing but I like to think of myself as a musician everywhere not just in Houston.
RO: Do you realize you're weird?
ML: HA! Yeah, but dude, everything is weird, man.
RO: What's next for the Folk Family Revival?
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
ML: I can't predict the future.
Folk Family Revival releases Unfolding at Dosey Doe Saturday.