FRONTIER FOLK NEBRASKA – Frontier Folk Nebraska

Album: Frontier Folk Nebraska

Artist: Frontier Folk Nebraska

Label: No Chaser

Release Date: September 08, 2015

Frontier Folk Nebraska

Ed. note: following the text are a couple of smart videos of the band, so check ’em out!


Neither from Nebraska nor a folk group, Frontier Folk Nebraska is instead a Cincinnati band that sounds like the Replacements attacking power pop with their thrashing guitar-and-drum energy kept in check by their love for melody and appealing song structure.

Sometimes in the middle of their thundering collaborative soundscape, a lyrical guitar solo emerges that’s so fluid you want to ride it like a wave. It can have a processed, fuzzy sound (as in “Sister Priest”) or an exquisitely clear, fluid one (“Desert Car Chase”).

Overall, this works really well; the music has a romanticism cloistered inside its hard-rocking brashness. And at peak moments, a specific song (like “The Well”) gains thrust and soars into something anthemic.

Two of the quartet’s members – bassist Steve Oder and drummer Nathan Wagner – left after this record was made, necessitating an “is/was” note in the personnel credits. (There are already replacements.) But that leaves two strong mainstays in guitarist Travis Talbert and singer/guitarist and principal songwriter Michael Hensley.

His youthful voice can start off a song, like opener “Desert Car Chase,” with a pining, slightly sorrowful quality that then gains in confidence – and joy – as it builds in volume. When he flirts with the top of his range, he sounds exuberant rather than strained. It’s as if the song is his call to arms – which good rock ‘n’ roll should be.

While for the most part the sonic approach means you catch snatches of lyric rather than full narratives (at least on the first couple listens), what you do hear sounds compelling and mysterious. For instance, Hensley sings “Let me be your smoke king/And I will take you away from this bar” on “Smoke King” and you do conjure an image even if you still have questions about what it means.

Frontier Folk can also slow their pacing down to highlight a sense of drama. “Smoke King” is one example, but another is “Coward In Skin” where Hensley performs a Ronettes-like “Woah-hoa-ho” several times to coast the stately melody through any barriers.

Frontier Folk Nebraska believes in the continuing relevance of a classic-era kind of alt-rock that flirts with occasional messiness in order to let its organically electric sound come together without too much art-think or conceptualism. Faith is put in the music’s energy as the right conduit to showcase interesting songwriting. One looks forward to whatever comes next.

DOWNLOAD: “Desert Car Chase,” “The Well”

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