Tuesday 22 Jul

Chevy cruisin’

Chevy Woods with Kevin Gates & more
9 p.m. Sunday 
Vibe Night Club 
227 SW 25th St. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Rock steady

7 p.m. Saturday
Frontier City
11501 N. Interstate 35 Service Road 
Free with park admission 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Narrative verse

L.T.Z. with Jabee, Frank Black & more
8 p.m. Saturday
The Conservatory 
8911 N. Western Ave. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Dancing in the Twilight

Sunday Twilight Concert Series with The Wurly Birds
7:30 p.m. Sunday
Myriad Botanical Gardens 
301 W. Reno Ave. 

07/16/2014 | Comments 0

Next big thing

As far as songs go, few prove as challenging to sing as our national anthem.

It’s a technically demanding tune from first note to last, to be sure, beginning with a low bellow that quickly soars toward star-punching high notes, eventually swelling to a show-stopping crescendo that even the most seasoned performer can have trouble mastering.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Reviews · Folk · U.S. Royalty — Mirrors

U.S. Royalty — Mirrors

Vital folk celebrating the Midwest

Stephen Carradini January 18th, 2011

One of the best love letters I’ve ever heard to the beauty of the Midwest is Rich Mullins’ “Calling Out Your Name” (who, despite being a solidly Christian artist, counts indie mainstay The Mountain Goats among his many fans). Quickly climbing the list is “Equestrian” by U.S. Royalty, off their new album, “Mirrors.”

The harmony-heavy vocals and full-band arrangements of these folky tunes scream Fleet Foxes, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash. But I like U.S. Royalty more than all of those, because their harmonies retain a vitality and directness that cut through kitsch and get to the heart of the feeling. It also helps that they have a propensity to throw down gritty Southern-rock guitar solos on top of their folk tunes.

All those things come together in “Equestrian.” There’s a “whoa-oh-oh” vocal line that will stick with you. Guitars crash in everywhere. Toms rumble. The whole thing has a spacious vibe that calls to mind driving through the Midwest. “I’ve slept in hills of wheat and pine,” John Thornley solemnly intones, and I believe it. Even if he hadn’t said it, the whole song sounds like it. It’s wonderful.

“Vacation Vacation” is another standout example of the best U.S. Royalty elements: the affected/disaffected vocal conflict of Wild Light, the songwriting reverie of Holy Fiction and the warm guitar crunch of Drive-By Truckers. The calmer “Old Flames” completes the trifecta and shows that they’re not ripping anyone off; they’re just saying what they want to say.  

There’s some just-under-the-surface classic-rock love in their folksy amalgam: “Hollywood Hollows” sounds like an American version of the Fab Four’s “Come Together,” complete with similar percussion sounds. “Fool to Love (Like I Do)” nabs a sitar and vocal rhythms of The Who. They mesh these elements in well, but the songs with stronger rock presence and weaker folk presence don’t strike the ear as affectingly as vice versa.

Move over, Fleet Foxes. If you like the folk revival that’s happening, U.S. Royalty is the next thing that’s happening there. They have a lot of room to grow into their sound, but “Mirrors” has some gems on it. —Stephen Carradini

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