Frontier – The Mining Co. (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

There’s a lot to be said for music that is able to grab you without the need for big production tricks and loud music, there are no wailing guitar solo’s or screaming vocals here, instead the songs rely on solid song writing to get the point across.

The Mining Co. comes down to the musicianship of Michael Gallagher, an Irish song writer who, although based in London, recorded the album in Spain giving a sound that is difficult to pin-point. At its heart is Americana music (Springsteen, Dylan and Bill Callahan are quoted as soundalikes but I would throw British indie band ‘Noah and the Whale’ into the mix too) but add to that some folk and the Spanish influence and you get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

It’s a very gentle and charming album, Gallagher’s voice rarely lifts above a steady tone, it’s measured and very understated allowing the individual instruments and lyrics to be presented.

From the opening track ‘Mexico Alone’ which sets a lovely postcard-feel to the album and allows the following songs of ‘Lost’ with its Flaming Lips intro of strummed guitar and slowly-building drama (not to mention a catchy piano riff) to lift. Actually ‘Lost’ is a belter of a song, deceptively complicated in its arrangement – switching mood a third of the way through – and a song I would recommend you hear even if the whole album seems like too big a bite to take.

Like all good albums, ‘Frontier’ takes a few listens to really appreciate what is being done, on the surface it’s another Americana album being played out by non-American musicians but given the chance this album gets better and better. Songs like ‘Empty Row’ bringing strings to the ever-expanding sound, title track ‘Frontier’ welcoming a double bass to open the song before we’re treated to a very stark arrangement. The country influence comes through on ‘Hold On’ and ‘Rollercoaster Kisses’ with the latter following the tried and tested method of plucked guitar and slide guitar underpinning a slice of American cherry pie with its tale of lost love set against the world of the travelling fair.

All in all it’s a very good example of what comes about when good songs are matched to good musicians and the results, understandably, is a good, solid album from someone who, if currently unknown to you, should be on your list of bands to keep an eye on.

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