Friends of the Stars
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Friends of the Stars

Band Folk Americana

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The great Johnny Cash once said, “When I think about country music, I think about America.” It’s hard to disagree with the Man in Black, but Hypeful is rethinking his words after listening to Friends of the Stars‘ new album Lighting and Electrical. Sure the band has some folk-leanings, but they also nail a genuine country sound so well that Hypeful was incredulous that the alt-country/folk trio actually hails from Birmingham, England. Perhaps their American country counterparts should take notice - FOTS’s new album features alternating female and male vocals. “Old Souls” and “Dragonfly” are two clear standout tracks, although their new disc is packed with the kind of authentically sad, lovely, and whiskey-drenched tunes that are tragically absent from the modern country FM dial. - Hypeful


Honesty and earnestness: two qualities missing from mainstream music in this current day and age with emphasis being put on what would sell well rather than that which matters: heart and motivation. What we have here is most definitely a return to these ideals of truth in art; coming from a band whose tagline is ‘commercially unviable since 2000.’ Perhaps a pedant would point out a possible irony and hypocrisy over them releasing an album for commercial consumption, as they have here with Lighting and Electrical, but it is their first, and they have yet to be tainted by the allure of the grandeur of life of rock stars. This is simple, honest folk music with no purpose other than artistic expression. It is pure.


The initial sole guitar chord strums of Old Souls are the first sign of the style to be demonstrated on the album: minimalist yet effective accompaniment to heavenly vocals. The harmonies of dual vocals over this simplistic chord strumming and pedal-steel plucking create a calm, almost serene, soundscape, with its termination into a sole female voice in the outro being a soul-wrenching way to go about things (of course, this could just be my predilection towards female vocals).


Dragonfly only has one thing in common with Old Souls, and that being in the use of an acoustic guitar. A new dynamic of male-female dual vocals is added, and comes close to sounding playful amidst the tales of indifference, accidents and modern communication. The introduction of electric guitar and percussion in this track also goes a certain way to showing them to be more than one-trick ponies. Sharpening a Blade is a wonderful song demonstrating willful separation from an ex-partner in a non-cliché manner, with the duality of acoustic and electric guitars being shown once again in its full glory.

Feelin’ Blue starts in the downtempo, quiet manner which has become expected of the music of Friends of the Stars by this point in the album, but slowly develops into a forceful (by their standards) song of devotion in the wake of pseudo-depression. It is really quite wonderful – the voices and instruments blend to form three minutes, eighteen seconds of perfection.

Nobody’s Out There serves to show the sheer range and skill on offer from the one female vocalist: her vibrato when sustaining notes is eccentric yet ever so endearing, and just furthers the lovesick message of the song. The (Out of) Jail Fire shows a marked departure from the tone of the album thus far: uptempo and bright, as opposed the previous downtempo subtlety, whilst still telling a tale of love lost. The male vocals and music here are somewhat reminiscent of Tim Kasher’s work with The Good Life – that, coming from me, is a very favourable comparison. Fork in the Road continues in this vein, and continues to draw possible conclusions most favourable. The next track, Been Down, returns to the male-female dual vocals and simplicity of the rest of the album: and it is a most welcome return to the previous beauty.


Monday Morning is another song with beautiful female vocals over simple, effective guitar strumming and plucking; and Why Are There Movies of Jane Seymour? ends the album on a high note: this one songs demonstrates everything wonderful about the band: honesty, earnestness, simplicity, paradoxical dichotomy – a certain complexity in simplicity. I hope that success finds them.
- A Distorted Reality (http://www.adistortedreality.com/)


Discography

Lighting and Electrical - debut 10 track album released 2007

Sharpening a Blade - download remix, The L & R Woodcutter Fabulous Remix

Feelin' Blue - download remix, Teatowel Remix

Community Punishment Workshop - Selected Recordings 2000 - 2005: available as downloads

Peel Sessions set list (2001 and 2002):
Jealous Again
35 Days
In my Time of Dyin'
Brand New Morning

Photos

Bio

Friends of the Stars are a Country/Folk collective from Birmingham, UK that has never done things the easy way. Nor have they often gone the right way; at least, not before a couple of ambitious, ill-conceived or simply stubborn blind alleys have been ventured down first.

Not known for their work-ethic or good fortune, the band have nevertheless chalked up several achievements since forming (as Buick 6) in the summer of 2000. Their debut 7" single, "Drunk on My Porch", was well received in alt-country circles and lead to airplay and two live sessions with the late John Peel. An ill-advised deal with Sanctuary Music followed, as did a lengthy courtship with major label BMG, before the band imploded briefly amidst accusations of them being ‘too Country’.

Regrouping, the band recorded "The Gun Quarter Tapes" at their own studio, before abandoning release plans for reasons unknown. Starting once again afresh they then recorded their debut album, "Lighting & Electrical", which endured a tortured gestation before finally seeing the light of day in September 2007. Released on the Commercially Inviable label the record garnered many fine and complimentary reviews.

They are currently recording their second album, "Faith's Meat Kiosk", and claim to be making significant progress. As with their debut album, this release will also be handled by Commerically Inviable Records.