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The Furious Seasons: La Fonda
by George Graham
(Independent Release as broadcast on WVIA-FM 8/18/2020)
Acoustic folk groups, usually duos or trios, have been with us since the folk music days of the 1950s, with groups like the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul & Mary, and on through Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Indigo Girls. There have been quite a few interesting such groups in recent years which we have featured in this review series such as Crooked Still, Darlingside, and Oliver the Crow. Their approach varies, in terms of songwriting style instrumental configuration and division of duties, but they generally have in common acoustic guitar-dominated instrumentation, songs with literate lyrics and some degree of vocal harmonies.
This week, we have the latest album by a Los Angeles based group who has been together in various forms since 2008, the Furious Seasons, and their new release their seventh under the Furious Seasons name, is called La Fonda.
The principal creative force behind The Furious seasons is singer-songwriter David Steinhart, whose career goes back to 1984, when he was a founding member of the band Pop Art, who made about five albums between 1984 and 1990, then he went on to be a member of the band Smart Brown Handbag, who released 10 albums up to 2002.
Since 2008, Steinhart has been leading The Furious Seasons, who also include his brother Jeff Steinhart on bass, who collaborated with David in Smart Brown Handbag, and guitarist Paul A. Nelson. The Furious Seasons started out as a more conventional rock band with more members, including a drummer. But following their 2015 album My Love Is Strong, the band became a classic acoustic folk trio, with Jeff Steinhart, after playing electric bass with rock bands for over 35 years, switching to acoustic bass, for the band’s most recent albums, including 2018’s Now Residing Abroad, and the new release La Fonda.
I spoke earlier of “division of duties,” and the Furious Seasons are definitely the outlet for David Steinhart’s songs. He is the sole songwriter and does the lead vocals, though Nelson contributes some vocal harmonies. But the classic ingredients are there, the strumming acoustic guitars, the tuneful songs, and lyrics that often tell stories in a poetic way, many of them revolving around a character, and with some of the songs making reference to the Furious Season’ Los Angeles environs. Much of the album consists of the two acoustic guitars and the acoustic bass for instrumentation, and several of the songs have an old-fashioned 6/8-time folk meter, but there are a couple of tracks that bring in some drums and have something closer to a rock beat.
Opening is a piece called As a Matter of Fact, a story song set in L.A. It’s nicely done and typifies this album’s strengths. <<>>
Figure It Out is another track in a classic folk group form, with its waltz rhythm. It’s kind of bittersweet song about a complicated and most-likely fractured relationship. <<>>
Burn Clean is one of the most straight-out story songs, set in the Arizona desert. It features a guest appearance from violinist Aubrey Richmond. <<>>
One of two tracks with more of a rock sound is I Was an Actor. Though there is a drum set, the string instruments remain acoustic, and the lyrical story is more detailed than most. <<>>
Statistically Speaking examines a relationship perhaps interrupted by physical separation. <<>>
The other rock-oriented track is Vast Divide which has some of the more optimistic, or at least hopeful, lyrics. <<>>
From a story-song standpoint, Your Irish Funeral is perhaps the most memorable. The context is the funeral of someone who lived the fast life and died young, and thoughts of the people at the wake. <<>>
The album closes with I Want to Be Sure, another song in an introspective mood, in which the city, presumably Los Angeles, forms a kind of backdrop. <<>>
La Fonda, the new release by the Southern California trio The Furious Seasons, is an enjoyable recording in a classic acoustic folk group setting, with tuneful original songs with creative, poetic lyrics, most of which form narratives that defines many of these songs. It’s all done with a high level of musicianship and taste. And there is enough subtlety that the listener can get more out of each successive hearing, especially in the lyrics.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A.” The acoustic instrumentation was well-handled by producer/engineer Alfonso Rodenas. The album has a warm, inviting, and decidedly mellow sound.
In a long-running tradition of acoustic folk groups, The Furious Seasons have created an album that does the genre proud.
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