journey through the mind of a man who has overcome betrayal, unforgiveness and pain. how a soul in agony was able to find peace and strength through difficult times
It would seem at the moment that over half the celtic-punk scene has gone off to make folk or country side projects at the moment. One of the first to do so was Tobin Bawinkel of the fantastic Chicago based band Flatfoot 56. If you’ve not heard of Flatfoot 56 then take yourself immediatly to the bottom of this review and look up their web site. One of the top bands in celtic-punk they are truly one of the scenes trailblazers and innovators. But if you do know of them then read on!
‘The Humble Beginnings Of A Roving Soul’ is a follow up to last years six track EP ‘The Humble Beginnings’ and continues in much the same style just don’t expect the wild, loud and sometimes brutal sound of Flatfoot 56, as with these songs Tobin has gone back to his musical roots. Laid back American folk with definite celtic influences with thought provoking lyrics and a sometimes relaxed style that shows Tobin’s talents off in every way possible.
The album was funded by a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign where fans pledged money to finance the production of the album in return for various rewards like advance copies of the album or signed merchandise. They easily surpassed their target so this is truly a DIY effort without a sniff of any interference from outside. Not only that but the CD itself is like a wee piece of art coming in an 8 panel digipack format that displays the full albums lyrics and images. A stunning cover that would happily adorn any wall, it has had time and care lavished on it so do yourselves a favour and forget the download if you can and get the physical copy.
Aided by fellow band members Josh Robieson, Mike Pettus and Keith Perez the album includes a deluge of instruments and traditional influences. Tobin explains
“When I was growing up, I remember playing folk and bluegrass music with my family in our living room. I always loved the story telling aspect of this style and the joy of playing with close friends and family. I loved it when songs would have a quirky and playful tone and theme. All of the pretentious elements that can sometimes find their way into music, were absent during these sessions with my family and friends. You would find seasoned players, playing right next to children who were just learning. This culture is what I wanted again. The idea was to return to a simpler and more earthy feel”
This they have done. Recently we have added a new feature to the blog ‘Classic Album Reviews’ (here) where we intend to take you right back to the roots of folk music, sometimes with albums over sixty year old sometimes or music from before the 2nd World War. Music that has inspired and motivated and helped create what we are listening to today. It is to 6’10 credit that they could easily be filed into that section too. The music is lovingly crafted and expertly played and if Tobin can get his mellower side out here then I’m sure fans will be happy that Flatfoot 56 will show no signs of slowing it down themselves.
The first of the album’s twelve tracks starts with ‘Cannon Ball’,one of four tracks that also appeared on that debut EP. Strumming guitar, picking mando and Tobin’s raspy cool as feck voice combine for an absolute classic. The sound of F56 is of course still in there and if anything this is Flatfoot56 stripped right down to the basics. F56 never ever shied away from their working class roots and ‘Da Boss’ is an ode to the blue collar worker. This could have made the Wobblies ‘Little Red Song Book’ way back in 1909! ‘Peach Farmer’ shows a happier and uplifting side to the album. It’s not always about back breaking toil when you love what your doing. In the great ‘Timothy’ Tobin again surpasses himself with a story of a man sharing his knowledge and foresight from a hard and tough life to the Timothy of the title. A superb song that in the best of folk tradition helps you to understand yourself just that little bit more. Next is ‘Hurricaine’ one of the albums faster tracks and certain to get your foot tapping along. This must surely be a live favourite I’d say.
Though we dont like using the word Hun here on this blog Tobin isn’t to know so we will forgive him and ‘Someday Hun’ is not a ballad celebrating the demise of our much despised zombie neighbours but rather setting off on the road to perform and looking forward to your return home to your true love. ‘Where Did you Go?’ is a slow and tragic ballad of lost love and the suffering that comes with it. ‘Tuesday’ and ‘It Is Well’ continue in the same vein with guest vocalists and tinges of country in there as well before ‘Burning Ships’ tells of true love and a simple life together. In ‘Backpack’ Tobin tells the heart breaking tale of of the collapse of a mans life before he finds joy in moving on and eventualy finding happiness.
“the backpack is calling my name”
The album ends with the sad but beautiful ‘The Travellers’. More brilliant story writing that takes you into the conversation between two sad dreamers who while their lives away telling each other stories trying to escape the banal day to day existence they are trapped in. The story of working class dreamers everywhere that I’m sure renowned artists like Pete Seeger or Woody would have been proud to have written.
The album clocks in at over 45 minutes and is worth every penny to buy the CD. 6’10 are heading over on a European tour in the Autumn so be sure to keep checking them out so as not to miss the tour. This is truly a great album and I simply cannot recommend it enough to you. The musicianship is first rate but as ever its the lyrics and the stories within the songs that sell it for me.
“The main goal of this band is to be able to inspire and relate to people who want something more then the typical things that the world we live in tries to force us to live for. I want it to encourage those who have gone through tough times, to realize that there is always gold to be found in the mud that life sometimes bogs us down in. The trials and difficulties we face can either make us bitter or they can make us better. This band offers an entertaining evening to those who just want to reflect on stories from the past and hopefully be inspired by the ramblings of a seasoned traveling musician”
At home Tobin is a teacher right in the area of Chicago where he grew up, as well as a church leader and its his concern for the bodies and minds and souls of working people that shines through. Tobin exposes his innermost feelings for us and for that we can be grateful. The album itself has the feel of something unpolished and rootsy but rest assured everything to do with this record is first class. A superb debut album and I simply cannot wait for the tour. Congratulations for all involved we are in love with ‘The Humble Beginnnings Of A Roving Soul’ and I’m sure once you’ve heard it you will be too. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be moved.
Buy The Album
Contact The Band
great interview with Tobin here from Idiotek.
Contact Flatfoot 56